Council gave the nod to all the groups asking for a permissive tax exemption this week, after discussion of the applications stalled at their Oct. 3 meeting.
The approval includes the 12 groups that were on the list to be denied based on exceeded a limit of having $100,000 in working capital, showing they were not in hardship.
On Oct. 3, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit pointed out the denied list included “everything from the Brain Injury Society to Hospice House to Anavets and a lot of community organizations.” The annual property tax exemptions are granted to societies, service groups and other organizations like churches.
One of the reasons council deferred the discussion for two weeks was to allow the Penticton Golf and Country Club, which had not filed the financial statement required with the application, to have a last chance to complete the paperwork.
Like the charities and outreach groups, the golf club also received the exemption, $9,537 in their case.
Jakubeit referred justification of giving the golf course an exemption to Coun. Campbell Watt, who said it depended on how you define service to the community.
“They have over 90 employees there, they have over 11,000 visitor rounds per year which are good for our tourism economy. They are a certified member of the Audubon International Society,” said Watt, adding that the club raised over $140,000 for charity in 2017.
“I have first hand seen seniors carry bags of coins to pay for their dues because that is their only avenue for social networking, their only way to get exercise,” said Watt. “I believe that from a community standpoint, although it is stereotyped as a golf course, it is as relevant to our community as any other place where we allow these seniors, juniors and everyday people to get their daily activities in.”
Watt denied that a property tax exemption for the golf club, which is run by a society on land leased from the city, was an unfair advantage over private businesses.
Though he is now a mortgage broker, Watt moved to Penticton in 1999 to take a position as a golf pro at the Golf and Country Club. Annual membership fees for the club are $1,770.
Revenue supervisor Amber Coates said that since the Oct. 3 council meeting, the applicants that did not meet city policy were given an opportunity to explain their working capital balance.
“The overall conclusion is that many of these organizations have higher working capital owing to saving for large future capital acquisitions,” said Coates.
Some, like the Recovery Resource Society, were saving to purchase a secondary location. The South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation noted its funds were being held as they save to pay for equipment for the new Patient Care Tower.
“I think we have all recognized that the policy needs to be reviewed. As the mayor suspected, many with a balance of over $100,000, that is their kitty, if you will, to their future expansion,” said Coun. Judy Sentes.
Jakubeit said an updated policy could include documentation of the amount of philanthropic work or community giveback each organization does.
“I think that would be helpful for those who look at various organizations or groups and say why would that group get a $5,000 or 10,000 (exemption), said Jakubeit. “If they see what they do and what they give back to the community, maybe it is a bit easier for them to justify it or ask reasons why.”