The last fully operation Legion in Greater Victoria will stay open another year.
On Thursday, city council voted to issue a $36,000 grant to the Trafalgar/ Pro Patria Branch #292 to help alleviate a sudden jump in property taxes. This portion covers the recreational and non-profit aspect of the Legion’s tax bill.
In early June the branch was told its annual property tax, usually pegged around $70,000, had jumped up to $104,231.78, a sum the branch simply would not be able to pay.
“We’re obviously happy for this year for sure because it was really scary. There’s no way we could come up with $105,000,” said Angus Stanfield, chair of the Victoria Remembrance Committee and Dominion vice president. “We budgeted for $70,000 and are kind of struggling with how we’re going to make it.”
The jump came from a 2019 BC Assessment which separately taxed the recreational/non-profit aspect of the Legion at $36,000 and all business/other aspects at more than $67,000.
Councillors called into question how other municipalities, such as Langley, Sidney and Burnaby are able to offer full or partial exemptions to the property tax, as there is no legislation in place to do so provincially.
“This particular issue is one which is indicative of a very strange and quite unrealistic and inconsistent approach to how Legions are taxed through British Columbia,” said Coun. Marianne Alto.
Coun. Geoff Young was concerned about promising future grants if exemptions are an option.
“A grant is not equal to an exemption,” Young said. “When we give exemptions, taxes and school taxes are forgiven. When we get a grant we collect half of that $36,000 and the rest goes to provincial government.”
This prompted the city to put forward a motion for consideration at the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. The motion asks for the province to consider developing policies and legislation for municipalities to apply exemptions to Legions, a conversation that had never been on the table before.
“Legion-wise British Columbia has been the furthest, most backwards province in understanding what we do,” Stanfield said. “There’ something now that we can look at and work on, and before we couldn’t do very much because there weren’t any lines of communication.”
Coun. Ben Isitt was supportive of this motion, but called into question if all Legions should be treated equally.
“Personally my preference would be that exemptions do take into consideration if they’re a bonafide organization of veterans or other ex-service members,” Isitt said. “For some communities, in lieu of a pub this becomes the community gathering spot and drinking establishment. “
Stanfield was adamant that regardless of the membership demographic, all Legions follow the same mission statement to serve veterans and the community, and to focus on remembrance.
“You don’t have to have served to appreciate the price that has been paid to live in a country like we do,” Stanfield said, adding that he himself has never served in the Canadian Armed Forces. “The world needs more Canada, and Canada needs more Legion.”
Presently the Pro Patria branch will continue to pay the remaining $70,000 in taxes for 2019, and are earmarking another $70,000 for 2020. The motion for property tax exemptions for Legions could come up for discussion at the UBCM convention in September.
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