Motion to tax non-profits – including churches – dismissed in Langley

Rob Dickson, business administrator for the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, made a presentation before Langley City councillors.

Rob Dickson, business administrator for the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, made a presentation before Langley City councillors.

A significant event in the world of not-for-profits took place in the City of Langley November 23. On the city council’s agenda was the follow-up to this resolution passed September 28:

That staff be directed to prepare a tax exemption reduction/elimination strategy for those properties that are currently being exempted, for Council consideration and that the approved strategy be implemented for the 2017 taxation year.

An October 23 letter by Langley City’s director of corporate services Darrin Leite invited the 20 not-for-profits that received 2016 property tax exemptions to comment on the motion before the November 23 council meeting.

Leite’s letter did indeed produce comments; many recipients voiced strong opposition to the Permissive Property Tax Exemption Strategy.

Rev. Paula Porter Leggett spoke with passion on behalf of her congregation, St. Andrew's Anglican Church.

Rev. Paula Porter Leggett spoke with passion on behalf of her congregation, St. Andrew’s Anglican Church.

Stuart Allan and Cathy Barnes (people’s warden and rector’s warden respectively) of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church sent a letter outlining the significant contributions the church provides at no cost to the community:

St. Andrew’s provides a spiritual home where people of all generations come together to worship God and share community and reach out with hope. We provide spiritual support for both members of our congregation and anyone else in the community who has a need. Our priest and members of our congregation regularly provide outreach to the sick and elderly both at home and in four local care homes.

In addition, we supply space at a nominal cost to nonprofit groups like Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Scouts, Cubs, Valley Fuchsia and Geranium Club, and the Bee Club. Also Parkview Academy Day Care and Preschool use our facilities, which we provide at a rent below market rates. . . .

City councillors listen to Rev. Paula Porter Leggett.

City councillors listening to Rev. Paula Porter Leggett.

Rob Dickson, business administrator of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, also wrote to Mayor Ted Schaffer in support of St. Andrew’s objection to reduction or elimination of the Permissive Property Tax Exemption. He said, in part:

Our understanding is that total revenue from property taxes in 2017 is predicted to be $24,975,925. The exemption represents approximately 1.57 percent of the total property tax revenues generated, and only 0.91 percent of the total revenue to be generated by the city as a whole.

We feel that our exemption represents only a small part of the budget, given the service we provide the community on a daily basis. If the city had to pay entirely for the services we provide, the costs would be much greater than the permissive tax exemption.

It was standing room only in the gallery.

It was standing room only in the gallery.

On the evening of November 23, Langley City Hall council chambers began to fill at 6 pm for the 7 pm meeting. By 6:40 the 60 seats were filled and by 6:55 the chamber held more than 120 people standing, lining the walls and spilling out onto the second floor mezzanine.

From 7:15 until 8:45 speakers moved to the dais, each expressing their opposition. One speaker said that people who have made a commitment to support the less fortunate, the lonely, the broken, the spiritually seeking should “be commended, not taxed.”

There was a large contingent from St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church and School, a faith community with 2,500 families and an aggregate total of 6,000 on the parish roles.

Francis Wong, director of finance for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Vancouver, also come out from Vancouver for the council meeting.

Francis Wong, director of finance for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Vancouver, also participated in the council meeting.

Francis Wong, director of finance for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, addressed council, as did Rob Dickson. Rev. Paula Porter Leggett, incumbent of St. Andrew’s, spoke with passion and clarity on behalf of the Anglican congregation.

Council also heard from representatives of: Langley Hospice Society, Langley Association for Community Living (Children and Adults with developmental disabilities), Langley Seniors Resource Society and a number of other Christian communities.

At the core of each person’s address was this question: ‘Why jeopardize the existence of organizations in the community that serve without charge a substantial portion of the population not being served for an insignificant amount of money, given the overall revenue collected by the city?’

When the motion to reduce the current permissive tax exemption for the 20 not-for-profits was ‘put,’ not one city councillor would second it. The motion and therefore the action died.

In a subsequent letter, Dickson reinforced why it was important for him and Francis Wong to be present at the meeting:

This is not an action that was only for the City of Langley. If this motion had passed in Langley November 23, there would have been a roll-out of this action across BC municipalities.

The not-for-profit sector must continue to be vigilant and we must alert all our various constituents and work together to ensure that churches, not-for-profits and compassionate service organizations are not taxed by the local, provincial or federal governments, for the very good reason that they provide community services not provided by others and at no charge.

A longer version of this article (from which this one is re-posted by permission) is available on the website of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster. All photos by Randy Murray.

For a related article in the Langley Advance go here.

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