Esquimalt council questions non-profit ‘double-dipping’

Concern raised about groups benefitting from grants and tax exemptions

Esquimalt municipal council may one day toughen its stance on organizations benefitting from both grants and permissive tax exemptions.

Concerns were raised at last Monday’s Esquimalt council meeting when Mayor Barb Desjardins and councillors approved the first three readings of the 2011 tax exemption bylaw, exempting 14 organizations from paying for property taxes for the coming year.

As a result, the groups will save a combined $149,638.

There may be alternate ways of supporting organizations without financially stressing the community, “ because this is a significant amount when you add it all up,” said Desjardins.

Outspoken Esquimalt resident and regular council observer Rod Lavergne said it doesn’t make sense that non-profit groups appear to be receiving permissive tax exemptions from the municipality just because they have for years.

“I guess we’re not having a tax increase next year, if you’re spending all this money,” he blasted.

“Start taking a look at this permissive tax grant and don’t tell me we need high rises in Esquimalt to get a (larger) tax base, because you’re wasting our money all the time,” Lavergne said. “It seems in Esquimalt once you get on the gravy train, you are not allowed to get off of that.”

Council also expressed concern that some of the same organizations also received grants this year to help cover programming and operational expenses, including the Esquimalt Neighbourhood House Society, which received $17,000, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Victoria, which received $7,000, and PEERS Victoria Resource Society and the City of Victoria (for Canada Day celebrations) each received $2,000.

Council has allocated $101,038 in grants so far this year, and there is $3,580 left in the pot.

It is “tantamount to double-dipping,” said Coun. Don Linge.

“I think the line becomes somewhat fuzzy, so going forward I would suggest (a future) council may want to tighten up those requirements so that some organizations cannot apply for both kinds.”

Council is scheduled to consider approving the 2011 tax exemption bylaw on Oct. 24.