Legion hit with huge tax bill

Victoria’s remaining active branch of the Royal Canadian Legion should be given a grant to offset an unexpected jump in property taxes to $104,231 from $71,371, say two city councillors.

“I genuinely think it would be a great loss to the community if they went under,” said Coun. Marianne Alto.

The Trafalgar Pro Patricia Branch was hit with the hike when the B.C. Assessment Authority determined about 35 per cent of its property value arises from “recreation — not for profit,” while the remaining 65 per cent is considered “business/other,” Alto and Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe say in a report to councillors.

The 2019 property value assessment was $7,082,500, versus $4,292,000 in 2018.

The legion budgeted about $70,000 for taxes, so the unexpected increase has “placed a critical burden” on the branch, which might have to close, Alto and Thornton-Joe say.

The legion has applied to the city for an exemption from next year’s taxes, Alto said — something that would normally be considered in the fall.

“I think that it’s not a bad thing to say: ‘Look, this is a timely conversation and maybe we should have it now.’”

Most municipalities provide at least partial exemptions to legions, they said. Sidney provides a full exemption to the legion.

The two councillors are recommending that Victoria council provide a grant of $36,481 from contingency funds to cover the difference this year. As part of next year’s budget, they are suggesting a grant of $40,000 for the legion branch, rising by $5,000 a year until 2025, when it is to be reviewed.

Providing an operational grant of about 35 per cent of current and future tax assessments is probably on the lower range of other municipalities’ tax relief practices for legions, they say.

The councillors are also recommending that the mayor write to the province urging it to consider a provincewide policy or legislative change to fully exempt all legions in B.C. from paying property taxes.

A spokesperson for the legion could not be reached.

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