Watson Lake Mayor Richard Durocher wants out of the rough.
He does not want to “tax the hell out of nonprofit groups and then come back with my hand out for a grant.”
But that’s how things might have been perceived.
Tuesday, the town council proposed gutting tax breaks for battered women, day-care centres and seniors.
That same night, council was also deciding on a $10,000 operating grant to the golf association, which the mayor is president of.
It wasn’t a great combo.
Durocher didn’t vote on the golf grant. He declared the conflict and left the room while council made its decision.
They voted it down.
He still thinks the golf course would be an “amazing asset for the town,” but he knows it didn’t look good.
“I put myself in a position, and I want to apologize to the community for that,” he said.
While he is disappointed with council’s decision, he’s not holding it against anyone, he said.
“You have to respect it,” he said.
But he’s not giving up on the golf course.
The association will run it on a volunteer basis and will fundraise to keep it afloat.
As for robbing the woman’s shelter, day care and seniors of the tax break, Durocher opposes that.
“I believe taxes should be forgiven for all nonprofits and I’ll stand by that,” he said. “Ever since I’ve been on council, and even before, we’ve provided a grant to nonprofits.”
If the measure passes, the woman’s shelter, day care and seniors home will see their property taxes increase 75 per cent.
Given the small amount of money the town will get, and the importance of the affected organizations, it’s not a prudent move, said Durocher.
“There are only so many groups in town, and they work hard to provide services without pay, and then the town comes back and wants to nickel and dime them,” he said. “And what’s the net benefit to the town? Only $8,000 I believe.”
If the bylaw passes, any nonprofit that gets federal, or territorial funding for their operations would not be eligible for a municipal tax break.
The vote could go either way, council seems split on the issue.
Coun. Cynthia Armstrong wants to charge nonprofits the full amount of their property taxes.
Last year, Armstrong voted to keep the subsidies in place. But she was reluctant to do so.
This year she wants it reconsidered.
It’s a matter of principle for her.
“I believe that, no matter who you are, you have taxes to pay then you need to budget for them,” she said.
It’s not popular, admitted Armstrong, adding she hasn’t made up her mind yet.
“We have heard from the NGOs again, so will be reviewing their submission again, along with other council members,” she said.
The town will make its final decision on the tax issue July 7.
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