While dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Quesnel property owners will have some relief, as the City is giving them more time to pay their municipal property taxes.
Generally, the City of Quesnel collects property tax July 2, with a 10-per-cent penalty the day after, July 3, but the provincial government recently announced that the penalties for commercial properties would be postponed to Oct. 1 to give businesses and landlords more time to pay their property tax without penalty, Kari Bolton, the City’s director of corporate and financial services, explained during the April 21 electronic council meeting.
“It makes sense to do that for all our classes, to provide for consistencies and ease of collection,” Bolton told council. “Staff is recommending that we set the due date for all tax classes as Sept. 30, with the 10-per-cent penalty applicable on Oct. 1.”
Bolton says several recent announcements by the provincial government give the City the ability to delay its tax due date. The City does not have to remit school tax unit the end of the year, which gives the City more cashflow available, and local governments can now borrow interest-free from their existing capital reserves to help pay for operating expenses, she explained.
“This one really helps us out because normally we cannot use our capital reserves for any of the operating expenses, so that forces us to borrow funds when we actually have cash sitting in our capital reserves,” she said.
As well, local governments can now carry debt for an additional year.
“So, if, for whatever reason, we need to get a revenue anticipation bylaw, we’re allowed to have it for one more year than normal,” said Bolton.
In her report to council, Bolton noted the City generally has enough funds to run the City until property taxes for the year are collected in July, and the City is currently looking at ways to offset revenues that are being lost due to COVID-19 with reduced expenses.
“Reviewing the City’s cashflow and available surplus funds, the City could make it to the end of August without collecting property taxes,” wrote Bolton. “The City is also now able to borrow from its capital reserves for operating expense, which would enable the City to go until Sept. 30 to collect taxes. The City also has the option of adopting a Revenue Anticipation Bylaw, which allows the City to borrow up to 75 per cent of the previous year’s taxation if the City does not have sufficient funds to meet lawful expenditures.”
The City collects taxation for a variety of other taxing authorities. The Cariboo Regional District and Cariboo-Chilcotin Regional Hospital requisitions are due July 31, while the Municipal Finance Authority and B.C. Assessment Authority are both due in August.
“Between the taxation collected at that point and, if required, borrowing from the capital reserves, the City will be able to make these payments,” Bolton said in her report.
Council voted unanimously to approve the municipal tax due date of Sept. 30 for 2020, with the 10-per-cent penalty to be applied Oct. 1, and for this alternative municipal taxation collection scheme to be built into the tax rate bylaw.
Property tax rates must be set before May 15.
Bolton says the tax notices will probably go out the last week of May, which is a couple of weeks later than usual.
“Quesnel City Council understands how financially difficult this time is for many businesses and residents, and we hope this deferral of property taxes will give at least some near-term relief as this situation unfolds over the summer,” Mayor Bob Simpson said in a news release following the council meeting.
The City notes that property owners may be eligible to defer their taxes through the Provincial Government’s low interest loan program. There are two programs available — the Regular program, for seniors, a surviving spouse or a person with disabilities, and the Families with Children program. Eligibility requirements can be found online at gov.bc.ca/propertytaxdeferment.
The City of Quesnel is asking residents to please take advantage of alternative payment options during this taxation year and is urging residents to pay their property taxes online through their banking institution or by mail. The City is also asking residents to apply for the Home Owner Grant online at https://ehog.quesnel.ca/.
View all payment options at quesnel.ca/property-taxes.