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B.C. provides financial relief for municipalities, businesses

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Apr 16, 2020 at 8:39 pm PDT

FILE - B.C. Premier John Horgan looks on as Finance Minister Carole James answers a question during a media scrum following a meeting with federal ministers at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre during day two of the Liberal cabinet retreat in Nanaimo, B.C., on Wednesday, August 22, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

Local governments authorized to borrow, interest-free, from existing capital reserves to help pay operating expenses

Municipalities can delay provincial school tax remittances until the end of the year

Province also reducing school-property tax rate for commercial properties

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Finance Minister Carole James announced new measures Thursday to help municipalities and businesses struggling with revenue losses during the pandemic.

They include authorizing local governments to borrow, interest-free, from their existing capital reserves to help pay for operating expenses, such such as employee salaries.

The measures also allow municipalities to delay provincial school tax payments until the end of the year, while providing them greater flexibility to carry debt for an additional year.

Such actions will provide local governments with resources to meet operational costs and required payments to regional districts and regional hospital districts, as well as TransLink and transit authorities, BC Assessment, the Municipal Finance Authority and other taxing authorities, says a release the province.

“This will ensure that other minor taxing authorities can count on receiving the full amount they bill to municipalities and the province’s surveyor of taxes before Aug. 1, 2020, reducing most commercial property tax bills by an average of 25 per cent.”

For businesses, non-profits and other organizations, the province is reducing the school property tax rate for commercial properties. That will result in an average 25 per cent reduction for the total property tax bill for most businesses, providing up to $700 million in relief.

The province is also postponing the date that late payment penalties apply for some commercial properties to give businesses and landlords more time to pay their reduced property tax.

“We know that B.C. communities and businesses are suffering from the economic impacts of COVID-19,” James says. “We are providing further support by making additional temporary property tax changes to provide province-wide relief for business and local governments to help weather the pandemic, continue to deliver the services people count on and be part of our province’s economic recovery.”

The City of Vancouver had been asking the provincial and federal governments for emergency funding to help cope with lost revenues due to the pandemic.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said the previous day that the city has already taken several steps to reduce spending and make cuts to non-core services. That includes reducing spending 10 per cent overall, making temporary layoffs, as well as cost savings.

“Many local governments have already shown leadership by taking steps to help people and businesses and maintain services, while addressing their finances. With these new measures, we are giving local governments new tools as a first step to ease their financial burdens and that of businesses in their communities now, and as we look to recovery in the months to come,” says Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities will monitor the impact of the new measures on the state of local governments finances, says its president, Maja Tait.