Ken Johnson, president of the Hallmark Heritage Society, stands near historic Craigflower Schoolhouse in late 2014. The society moved into the building in March 2015, only to receive a surprising tax bill.                                Black Press File Photo

Ken Johnson, president of the Hallmark Heritage Society, stands near historic Craigflower Schoolhouse in late 2014. The society moved into the building in March 2015, only to receive a surprising tax bill. Black Press File Photo

Saanich society to get tax break

A local society is getting a break on its tax bill.

Council Tuesday granted the Hallmark Heritage Society a permissive tax exemption following a staff recommendation. The exemption covers 2018 and 2019.

Council granted the exemption after the society received a tax bill of almost $3,000 for the Craigflower Schoolhouse assessed at $138,700.

The tax bill threatened to put a serious dent in the budget of the society, which advocates for the preservation, conservation and restoration of heritage assets, including the Craigflower Schoolhouse.

The Hudson’s Bay Company built the schoolhouse, said to be oldest standing school in B.C, in the mid-1850s, when Vancouver Island was still a British colony, and Confederation was still more than a decade away.

The property lost its exempt status when the province took over the building from The Land Conservancy and leased it back to the society.

Ken Johnson, president of the Hallmark Heritage Society, told the Saanich News earlier this year that the society assumed de-facto ownership of the building, falling into the same category of businesses that pay taxes on revenues generated on provincial Crown land like mining and forestry companies.

“Due to the timing of this transaction, and the inability for [council] to adopt a bylaw in time for the 2017 tax roll, this property was taxable in 2017,” said Valla Tinney, director of finance in a memo to council last month.

Granting the tax exemption now would return the property to its former exempt status, with the exception that it would be permissive rather than statutory. The next council could grant the society a four-year-long statutory exemption in 2020, she said.