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City council in Powell River extends property tax penalty deadline due to COVID-19

Taxpayers will have two deadlines with a five per cent penalty on unpaid taxes after those dates
OUTLINES PLANS: City of Powell River chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier highlighted two taxation bylaws at a special city council meeting.

City of Powell River Council has passed a bylaw that will give property tax deadline relief to taxpayers.

At a special council meeting on May 13, councillors voted unanimously to extend the typical July 2 tax deadline with a 10 per cent penalty to two deadlines, at midnight on August 31 and October 31, with a five per cent penalty on unpaid taxes after those dates.

Finance committee chair councillor George Doubt said the vote was the final step in adopting the tax penalty bylaw that adjusts tax penalties for people who don’t pay their taxes by the due date, and for the city to collect penalties later in the year in recognition of hardship imposed by COVID-19. Doubt said because October 31 falls on a Sunday, the deadline will be adjusted to the next non-statutory working day.

Mayor Dave Formosa said the city can let the public know council debated this issue and decided instead of using the norm, the city has offered some COVID-19 relief again this year. The city also extended the penalty deadlines in 2020 because of COVID-19.

“We thought that was a prudent thing to do for the citizens in the city,” said Formosa.

Council unanimously voted for the tax penalty bylaw.

At a previous meeting of council, when councillors were debating the issue, chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier had said delaying tax penalty dates could have an effect on capital projects in the city in the coming year. Langenmaier, at the May 13 meeting, said the capital plan will be looked at as tax collections occur. He said the city is not putting the brakes on everything right now.

“There are no planned stoppages right now,” said Langenmaier. “If we see a slow property tax collection after July 2, then staff will bring back a report to council for consideration of what we might need to do.”

Formosa said the city had also approved a bylaw that allows it to borrow interim funds until all of the taxes come in.

“As Mr. Langenmaier said, a report will come to this council,” said Formosa. “We will then be able to debate the issue of what capital projects may have to go on hold. At that time, we may look at our ability to use that bylaw that was created to help things keep moving along, or not.”

Also at the special council meeting, councillors voted for a bylaw for levying of property tax rates for the city, qathet Regional District and Powell River Regional Hospital District for the year 2021.

Langenmaier said the matter, which had been adopted at the May 6 council meeting, had come back to council because staff found an error in the previously adopted bylaw. He said an incorrect version of the bylaw was presented at the May 6 meeting.

“This version was not the same version that was presented at the April 13 committee of the meeting, which was appropriate,” said Langenmaier. “Because of this error, we are recommending rescinding the current property tax bylaw and adopting a brand new bylaw with no errors, containing the exact same information as the already adopted bylaw to be rescinded.”

Langenmaier said the property tax bylaw must be adopted before May 15. He said the provincial government had granted council the authority to pass a bylaw such as this in a single sitting.

“It is requested that council consider adopting this bylaw in today’s meeting,” said Langenmaier.

Council unanimously gave first three readings and final adoption to the tax rates bylaw.

At the May 6 council meeting, Doubt said the city had come up with individual residential property tax rates of $5.5375 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value. He said there was also the regional district rate of $0.7243 and a hospital district rate of $0.1579 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value.