With the end of the year quickly approaching, some groups in Prince Rupert are facing the issue of having to pay municipal taxes for the first time after 20 per cent of their tax exemption was removed by council in September.
One of those groups is the Friendship House, who have been tax exempt since opening in 1958 but this year will have to pay $2,000 to the City of Prince Rupert. The organization offers a number of programs for Aboriginal people in the community, such as assistance for new or expecting mothers and young people.
“We’re very disappointed right now. This has to be the hardest year for us with the provincial and federal government cutting funds and reducing programs… I don’t think council seriously considered the trickle down effect this has on people considering the work we do,” said executive director Farley Stewart, alluding to the loss of Planet Youth and cuts to Youth Program Street Spirit and Aboriginal Supported Child Development.
“We’ve had to cut back on a lot of our costs locally. We’re watching every dime that goes out the door this year.”
Prince Rupert Curling Club president Jamie Malthus said the organization is still coming up with a plan to pay the taxes, but that the additional costs haven’t been passed on to the members for this coming year as councillor Gina Garon had suggested.
“At this point we’re just going to proceed with payment, but in the end it comes down to how much money we have in the bank,” he said.
“Taxes are due early in the new year, and we’ll really be addressing it then.”
Christine White of the North Coast Transition Society also said she will wait until tax time to see what happens.
One point of contention for Stewart is that groups like the Friendship House and the Prince Rupert Curling Club, who presented a petition signed by 473 people and made a presentation at a council meeting respectively seeking exemption, have to pay taxes while the Prince Rupert Golf Club and the Prince Rupert Racquet Society remain exempt.
“We don’t mind paying our fair share… For me if you want to be fair include everyone and not just pick and choose which groups won’t be exempt,” he said, adding that the Friendship House is out fundraising and continuing to offer a number of programs.
“We’re not going to dwell on it. It is what it is, they made their choice, but it is disappointing.”
Other affected organizations include the salmon hatchery, the seniors’ centre, Moose Lodge and the Aboriginal Justice Society.