Tennis society in Powell River requests grant

Organization did not apply for permissive tax exemption

Powell River Sport and Fitness Society (PRSFS) has requested a grant from City of Powell River to cover municipal taxes for 2021.

At the December 1 committee of the whole meeting, Jeff Lynskey, president of PRFSS, said his organization is a nonprofit, operating the racquet facility on Joyce Avenue.

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“The reason why we are here is to ask for a grant which would cover or be equivalent to a permissive tax exemption, which we failed to ask for,” said Lynskey.

He said the facility has been nonprofit for two years. He said former for-profit owner Igor Skobkarev had applied for a permissive tax exemption in the spring of 2019 for the 2020 tax year. Skobkarev left Powell River in 2019 and Lynskey said the PRSFS executive did not appreciate it had to apply for the permissive tax exemption for 2021.

Lynskey said the city sent Skobkarev a notification about the permissive tax exemption but he did not pass that along to the board.

“We didn’t apply in time,” said Lynskey. “If we don’t receive that we will be bankrupt.”

Lynskey said with an uptake in new members, PRSFS has a balanced budget, but it’s based on the permissive tax exemption being part of the equation.

“We appreciate that we made the mistake but we are now asking the town council to grant us the equivalent of that after the fact,” said Lynskey.

2021 taxes for the PRSFS facility are estimated to be $19,357.

Councillor George Doubt said in considering the request for the grant, he would put the request to the test for a permissive tax exemption. He said one measure is financial need, and he thought Lynskey had explained that well in his submission. Another measure is whether it is a benefit to the community, and Doubt said he has been to the tennis club and seen people participating.

“I’m willing to say there is a benefit to the community,” said Doubt.

He asked Lynskey if PRSFS is partnering with the city, with parks and recreation.

Lynskey said he made a presentation when he became president in early 2020 and at that point, the department declined any participation. He said at that time the facility was set up for tennis, but since COVID-19, it has been expanded to accommodate pickleball and badminton.

“We’ve picked up a number of memberships under both categories,” said Lynskey. “We are very amenable to working with parks and rec. We do work with the schools with tennis, and the university has a pickleball program, which has been cancelled because of COVID-19.”

Doubt said another test is whether it contributes to the well-being of the community and he can see that playing tennis and being active does that.

Doubt then asked about volunteer involvement and Lynskey said the society has no paid employees. PRSFS runs on volunteer efforts, added Lynskey.

Doubt’s final point was about the facility being open to everyone. The councillor said all of the income, other than some small donations, comes from membership fees. Doubt said he was wondering if there was help for people who can’t afford to pay full membership.

Lynskey said anyone can play as long as they abide by COVID-19 restrictions, but PRSFS has not established a mechanism where impoverished people can play at a reduced rate.

Mayor Dave Formosa said the way he understands matters is that the taxes are expensive for PRSFS. He said the city has no control over taxes and by his understanding, the city would have to write a cheque to cover PRSFS taxes.

Chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier said to pay the taxes in 2021, the city would write a cheque to the tennis club and it would turn around and pay it back.

Formosa said in that instance the city would also be paying the portions for all of the other levels of government. Langenmaier said that is correct.

Formosa asked Lynskey if he is expecting this grant for one year.

Lynskey said PRSFS is looking for the money for the one year only and the following year will apply for the permissive tax exemption.

“As Mr. Doubt outlined, we do fulfill all of the criteria for that exemption,” said Lynskey. “We are self-sufficient with our current membership to maintain the club, hopefully in perpetuity. Given the trend, we hope to be in existence for many years.”

Councillor Jim Palm said it’s unfortunate the creator of the facility left town but it’s nice that board members have stepped up and volunteered to keep the facility open.

Palm said he had been in the facility playing tennis and pickleball.

“I would very much like to see this facility maintained,” said Palm. “It’s a good use of that building, rather than sitting derelict and empty. It’s for the wellness of our many residents who utilize it. I’m sure your membership will grow.”

Palm said he supported providing the grant for PRSFS for the year.

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said if PRSFS had applied for a permissive tax exemption, she believes the society would have received it. She said she is supportive of providing a grant this one time.

Councillor Rob Southcott said he thinks grants such as this had been given in the past and he asked staff for clarification.

Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said it has happened, so in this case, the committee could forward a recommendation to city council to consider providing a grant-in-aid to PRSFS in the amount of $19,357.

Doubt said he agrees with the idea and thinks it should go to city council.

The committee voted to send the matter to the December 17 city council meeting for a decision.

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