After a change of City tax-exemption policy excluded the downtown Seniors Community Centre, threatening the operation’s future, council opted Tuesday to give the nonprofit operation a break.
Management representing the centre at 540 Seymour St., commonly known as Desert Gardens, requested an appeal of a determination that the operation didn’t qualify for new permissive tax exemption rules.
Seiko Ouchi, manager of the complex, said the change would mean their taxes would go up by $23,000 a year.
“With that kind of hit on expenses, we wouldn’t be able to operate,” Ouchi told council. “We’re a bit of a square peg, but we feel we fit within the criteria and we request that council reconsider.”
Ouchi said it was the City that encouraged the centre to make an application for tax-exempt status for the commercial component of its operation — a café and leased offices — in addition to the exempt status for its recreational services to seniors.
However, Mayor Peter Milobar told councilors that they shouldn’t send the appeal back to staff, having directed staff to adopt the new policy earlier this year. He suggested they simply treat the centre as an anomaly among 23 nonprofits and that it be granted the exemption it has had for the 19 years of its operation.
The decision passed by a vote of 7-2 with Councillors Pat Wallace and Ken Christian opposed.
Christian said permissive tax exemption is too blunt of a tool for Desert Gardens and they should instead apply for a City grant.
“What we’re doing again is tinkering with our own rules,” Wallace said, suggesting that other groups would apply for tax exemption if they start watering down the rules.