B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson (Black Press files)

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson (Black Press files)

B.C. tax relief measures helps residents and municipality, says Sooke mayor

Commercial school tax reduced, late payments extended

A series of tax relief measures announced by the province this week will help ease financial burdens on small businesses and residents, Sooke’s mayor says.

But more needs to be done both by the province and the municipality, Maja Tait said.

“We have to focus on what is essential to our community to get through this [pandemic],” Tait said.

“It’s been difficult. The ground rules are changing every day, and we need to help our local businesses.”

The provincial government loosened rules around borrowing and debt, and extended financial deadlines to give municipalities more access to cash to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

An additional cut to commercial property tax for schools will produce an average 25 per cent reduction in this year’s property taxes to cope with COVID-19, B.C. Finance Minister Carole James said.

With property taxes due in July and many businesses shut or facing significantly reduced cash flow due to the coronavirus pandemic, late payment deadline for property taxes is extended to Oct. 1 without penalty, James announced April 16.

With local governments facing a drop in revenue, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson said the deadline for municipalities to pay the reduced school tax to the province has been extended to Dec. 31, 2020.

Local governments are also authorized to borrow interest-free from their existing capital reserves to cover payroll and other operating costs, and to carry debt for an additional year. They will have up to five years to restore their reserve funds.

James noted that the federal government has announced its intention to extend small business rent and lease relief, one of the more pressing issues with businesses closed or reduced in their ability to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on movement and trade in all but essential services.

School property tax was reduced by 50 per cent in B.C.’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, using a $5 billion fund that was established by a B.C. legislature vote in March. The additional measures are also coming from that fund,.

The school tax reductions apply to major industry, light industry, and other business. Two more classes have been added, managed forest (class seven) and recreation and non-profit.

Sooke council is also asking municipal staff to analyze this’s year budget for other cost saving measures, Tait said.

Many capital projects are still slated to move forward, including the major road work program.

So far, the district has avoided staff layoffs, but will not hire in some areas, including the job of the newly created communication co-ordinator’s position.

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