City of Penticton votes for bills, taxes relief

Utilities bill, tax relief

The City of Penticton has adopted COVID-19 financial relief steps for its citizens, including property tax deferment and lower utility bills.

At a special meeting Thursday, council discussed whether to allow lenience for property taxes, typically due July 31. 

Staff unanimously supported keeping the due date but allowing a penalty-free 60-day period afterward until October, to allow those struggling to pay bills a breathing period. 

"If this virus continues and may perhaps end at the end of June, commercial properties especially into downtown core and the industrial area they will have time to open and bring some revenue in,” Mayor John Vassilaki said. 

Staff still encourage those who can pay to pay on time by the end of July. 

Council also voted to give a 10 per cent discount to all city utilities customers, while also planning to explore a possible province-funded credit which Mayor Vassilaki contacted the province about Monday.

Chief financial officer Jim Bauer said the discount will come at an approximately $400,000 price tag for the city in lost revenue. 

He said the numbers show people are struggling to pay their utilities bills. 

"In the last month we’ve seen an increase of about 350 customers that have not been able to pay,” Bauer said.

The choice to lower rates will have an effect on city revenue and therefore city tax rates in the future, a reality councillor Katie Robinson acknowledged. 

"I think everybody should feel a little pain when we start to tighten the belt and pull things back,” she said. 

Council also decided to waive building permit fees for homeowner renovation projects under $100,000 in the hope of supporting construction workers and contractors during the pandemic, and suspend the enforcement of delinquent accounts of business licenses until October 2020. 

They will also be offering equivalent credit for a previously approved 2.9 per cent property tax increase, turning to their 'rainy day fund' instead to make up the difference. 

"We don’t just have a rainy day at this time we have a storm, and we have to somehow slow that storm down so that people can survive,” said Mayor John Vassilaki. 

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