The last fully operational Legion in Greater Victoria is facing financial insecurity thanks to a spike in property taxes.
In early June, the Trafalgar/Pro Patria Branch #292 at 411 Gorge Rd. E. received a bill for $104,231.78, a $32,000 jump from the year before.
“It’s just not sustainable, $70,000 was the break for us,” said Angus Stanfield, chairman of the Victoria Remembrance Day Committee and Dominion Vice-President. “We work all year long for the City of Victoria, and on our mind from the beginning to the end is ‘what about the taxes?’”
The spike comes after the 2019 BC Assessment determined that 35 per cent of the branch’s property value comes form “recreation/not for profit,” equalling over $36,000 in property tax, while 65 per cent comes from “business or other,” totalling more than $67,000, all due on July 2.
A majority of other B.C. Legions municipalities offer a tax relief to the legion branches including in Langley, Sidney and Burnaby which provide full exemptions from the municipal portion of the tax.
In other provinces, including Ontario, taxes are exempt altogether.
“We’re not a business, we’re a not-for-profit and service organization. As such, it would be $150,000 that we put back into the economy through our poppy fund, gaming fund, and fundraisers,” Stanfield said. “However, now most of the fundraising we do has to go towards taxes.”
Stanfield said that if there isn’t some financial aid the branch will be forced to shut down or possibly move to a neighbouring municipality.
However, the City of Victoria is exploring options to help subsidize some of the costs. In a motion put forward by Couns. Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Marianne Alto, council is seeking to alleviate some of the pressure by providing a temporary grant to make up for the difference. The motion asks for the city to take $36,481.12 from its contingency fund to give to the Pro Patria Legion, and to earmark $40,000 in the city’s 2020 budget for the Legion. This would be followed by a continued annual sum going up by $5,000 per year until 2025, when the funding would be reviewed.
The motion also asks that mayor and council write to the province urging a full exemption of B.C. Legions from property taxes.
Stanfield said that he’s glad to have council’s attention and hopes that something can come together soon.
“I don’t know how we could generate more revenue out of this building than we already are,” Stanfield said. “If the Legion didn’t exist I don’t know how long or if things would be done, right down to the Remembrance Day parade.”
The motion will come forward to the committee of the whole on Thursday, June 27.
It’s coming shortly after councillors received harsh criticism for suggesting that the Department of National Defence and Veteran’s Affairs Canada pay the bill for the city’s Remembrance Day Parade security costs.
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