Sidney councillors will hold a special meeting Monday after the province announced new measures to help business owners struggling from the effects of COVID-19.
Andrew Hicik, Sidney’s director of corporate services, said in a staff report accompanying the special meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, that the provincial announcement dated April 16 “warrants” a reconsideration of the moves councillors had made on April 14, when they considered six options for granting tax relief to local owners of commercial properties.
Councillors concluded the discussion by asking for public feedback on two options: one would reduce taxes for commercial and light industrial properties by five per cent, the other by 10 per cent, with both options reducing the general tax increase to zero per cent for all property classes.
Council also moved ahead with plans that would move the property tax due date from July 2 to Sept. 15, “subject to potential declarations” from the province on April 17.
The province made news on April 16 when it announced several moves around property taxes aimed at reducing the overall property tax bill for commercial properties by 25 per cent. The province also effectively moved the final due date for various properties including those for most businesses to Sept. 30. While the province has not changed the actual due date, it has moved the penalty date to Oct. 1.
In light of these developments, Hicik said council needs to reconsider two aspects. First, if Sidney should provide additional relief to owners of commercial properties now that the province has done so. Hicki notes that not all communities will benefit equally from the provincial goal of cutting the overall property tax bill by 25 per cent.
“With a zero per cent general tax increase, the average [commercial] property in Sidney will be paying approximately 18 per cent less in property taxes than in 2019,” he said. While this figure falls short of the provincial target, Hicik said it may be an indication that average businesses were already paying less than the provincial average.
“Or it may simply be an indication that the assessed value of the average commercial property in Sidney increased at a rate greater than the [provincial] average,” he said.
If council were to consider additional tax relief for business (and perhaps residential), “it is strong recommended that a firm choice be made among the options presented above,” or an alternative option. “The chosen option may then be advertised for public input, with the results of that consultation available for the April 27 [council] meeting,” he said.
The second aspect concerns the question of whether Sidney should move up the tax due date for residential properties from the previously recommended date of Sept. 15.
Hicik’s report recommends retaining July 2 as the official due date for property taxes, but establishing different penalty dates for different property categories. Sidney hopes that residents who can afford it will pay their property taxes on time, despite the absence of a penalty.
Broadly, residential properties (which account for 75 per cent of all properties in Sidney) would face a five per cent penalty for outstanding amounts after July 31 and an additional five per cent after Dec. 15. Various commercial and light industrial properties would face a five per cent penalty for an outstanding amount after Sept. 30 and an additional five per cent after Dec. 15.
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