A number of community groups and organizations in Oliver have been approved for tax exemptions.
But not all of them were easy decisions for Town council recently.
“To me we keep opening the door more often to make it easier for people not to pay taxes,” said Councillor Jack Bennest.
However, council voted not to give Seventh-Day Adventist Church an exemption because it is not a place of worship and has been classified (by BC Assessment) as a business property. Its private school is no longer in operation, and the building is now used as a profit-oriented daycare centre.
“There is no reason to give them a tax break if no worship is going on,” Bennest said.
Chief Financial Officer Dave Svetlichny noted the Town received 26 applications for tax exemptions.
For example, there was discussion about the Portuguese Club.
Svetlichny recommended that this group not receive a tax exemption because it is not assessed as a non-profit organization. But in the end, council approved the club as deserving a tax break.
Water councillor Andre Miller said the club is on very thin ground (struggling to survive) right now.
Fellow councillor Rick Machial reminded council about all the free labour the Portuguese Club gave the Town years ago during construction of the swimming pool.
The other debate focused on the Oliver Curling Club Society. Svetlichny said the club operates a bar and rents out the facility to other groups.
“When looking at this from a fairness perspective, we have to compare this organization with the fraternal organizations who also have bars,” he said. “None of those organizations received an exemption for their bars, so with fairness in mind, neither should this one.”
Svetlichny also said not everyone in the community benefits from reduced curling rates.
Council decided to discuss the club’s application with BC Assessment to determine the organization’s classification.
The South Okanagan Flying Society also generated discussion.
“One could argue that this type of building only benefits a few individuals that actually fly planes, however, others could argue that the airport brings people in to town and provides an economic boost,” Svetlichny said.
Mayor Ron Hovanes said the community is “very lucky to have a vibrant airport in our midst.”
Council decided to approve the tax exemption.
Other groups that received tax exemptions include the South Okanagan Hospitial Auxiliary, the Oliver Food Bank, the Red Cross Society, Oliver Kiwanis housing, and the arts council.
Svetlichny noted that tax exemptions for 2015 totaled $127,463.
By Lyonel Doherty