The City of Vernon has reduced 2020 municipal property taxes by more than $906,000 in its establishment of a one-time grant program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a special council meeting April 15, council moved the one-time grant that will ease the tax load on both residences and businesses. The grant will see all municipal property taxpayers receive a break equivalent to 2.1 per cent of the 2020 municipal property, due Sept. 1, 2020.
“This is a very difficult time,” Mayor Victor Cumming said. “Our routines have been disrupted and aspects of our lives have shifted. For many, this has included a significant shift in finances, so council has taken a very close look at what can be done at a municipal level to help our citizens and businesses financially, while also maintaining the operation of our core services and the health and safety of our community.”
This automatic grant for residential property owners in Vernon is on top of any additional programs announced by the provincial and federal government in response to the pandemic.
“We have already seen the provincial and federal governments announce significant grant, income replacement, tax deferment and stimulus programs for individuals and businesses,” the mayor said.
“However, to date, we have not yet seen any programs that offer aid to municipalities,” he said. “Council has made these modest changes to provide some relief for local taxpayers where we can.”
Business owners must enter a partnering agreement with the city to receive the grant. This agreement will ensure the directives of Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the provincial government will be adhered to, including social distancing and not re-selling essential goods and services.
The contract will cause businesses to enforce, and allow the city to enforce, these measures to ensure they are followed.
The grant will be included in the Financial Plan Amendment Bylaw, which is still to come.
Property taxes will maintain a penalty of 10 per cent for those paid after the due date of Sept. 1.
The City of Vernon will continue to remain open for as long as it can throughout the pandemic to support residents and businesses and “remain well-positioned to implement a robust community and business recovery program.”
All core services, such as police, emergency responders, water reclamation, roads, development, engineering, building services, fleet, financial services, information services, parks and support to council will also remain open.
Council also authorized the mayor to send letters to the province, the Regional District of North Okanagan, the Regional Hospital District, BC Assessment, the Downtown Vernon Association, Okanagan Regional Library and the Municipal Finance Authority requesting consideration in adjusting the municipal tax remittance dates to the end of September.
“As we know, the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to change quickly,” Mayor Cumming said. “Council and administration continue to monitor the situation closely and take our direction from the provincial and federal governments, making adjustments as necessary to protect our citizens, businesses, visitors and employees.”