Local church fighting denial of tax exemption for Immaculata Hall

Unexpectedly, the church was denied a permissive tax exemption on that property, and member Ray Stafford says the new taxes will be unmanageable. 

“Our previous tax bills for the church range around $700 to $800 and the potential bill this time would be $28,000,” he explained to council Monday. “That’s far beyond any available funds once we pay our bills so it’d be a fairly good hardship on us.”

He adds the church also has loan and mortgage costs for the addition, and simply the interest from those runs around the same amount. Stafford argues that there was no warning the addition would not be tax exempt when the church was proposing the hall or throughout permitting and construction. 

“Previously the immaculate was exempt, even after the school closed, and basically we never had any indication of any change before not getting our exemption.” 

Recognizing that the City is under different pressures, the church has asked it to reconsider granting the tax exemption at least for the 2013/2014 fiscal year. Member Stephen Petrucci argues its priests and sisters help members of the community that may never attend worship, like counselling services, and argues the hall itself has many uses. 

“The implications we feel are huge, not just for us, but for other faith communities in the city. The outreach of our church goes far beyond our regular Sunday church goers.”

Petrucci also brought up a partnership with the city allowing it to use the church’s green space for a community garden at no charge.

Mayor Lori Ackerman pointed out that in the past the hall had been used as a school gymnasium, which qualified it to be exempt, and argues that the new hall acts as competition to other rental spaces. She also advised that as the City collects tax for sectors like the school district, hospital district, regional district, municipal finance authority, and transit, the money has to come from somewhere. 

“Because those other authorities require their money, then what you guys are exempted the rest of the community has to pay.” 

City staff will prepare a report for the first council meeting in June. 

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About Erica Fisher 4010 Articles

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and energeticcity.ca in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.