CANMORE – Two not-for-profit organizations will have a portion of their property taxes exempt, but not without council amendments.
The Canmore Golf and Curling Club will receive a 50 per cent municipal tax exemption that doesn’t include the Bow Valley Regional Housing and vital homes requisition. The exemption will be reviewed in three years, while the Calgary Scope Society – which supports individuals in Calgary living with disabilities – will have a one-year exemption of 85 per cent of its property taxes for its lone building.
The intent will see the golf and curling club be reviewed before the end of this council term, with the Calgary Scope Society having a year's grace period to look at funding a condo owned by the organization in Spring Creek Mountain Village.
In a lengthy discussion during its Feb. 1 meeting, council stated multiple times the difficulty in the decision in who can and should receive the tax exemption outlined in the Community Organization Property Tax Exemption Regulation (COPTER).
“When we have these things come forward, it’s often those requests that may not exactly fit the COPTER perimeters but are still worthy of being recognized due to the community benefit they provide,” Mayor Sean Krausert said. “I think any regulation or contract or future looking document cannot foresee all potential scenarios. It’s not black and white.”
Staff recommended that council deny the applicants' property tax exemptions based on the requirements of COPTER, but under the Municipal Government Act council can create bylaws to give non-profit organizations latitude.
According to a staff report, Canmore council previously allowed the Canmore Golf and Curling Club to receive partial property tax exemption on its pro shop, maintenance buildings, halfway house, locker rooms, administration offices and curling rink. Ninety per cent of the clubhouse and part of the clubhouse’s land continued to be taxed.
Gordon Schultz, presenting on behalf of the Canmore Golf and Curling Club, noted it has been a non-profit in the community since 1926, offering affordable rates for residents to recreate locally.
He said the exemption program allows the club to support its youth programming and expand them when possible.
“We believe our 50 per cent tax exemption application should be granted by council on the basis Canmore Golf and Curling Club provides a significant physical and emotional benefit to a large section of the population of Canmore,” he said.
“Not just juniors, but adults and seniors, golfers and curlers. We employ upwards of 100 people during the summer season and 15 people year-round. Members must be local and our resident green fee rate is only available to locals.”
The condo owned by Calgary Scope Society is used as a vacation spot five out of seven nights a week for staff and people supported by the organization, said Ryan Geake, the group’s executive director.
The organization, which supports individuals in Calgary living with disabilities, originally worked with the Rotarians, but fully purchased the condo about four or five years ago, Geake said.
“There’s definitely great benefit for people who are in our agency. This is their opportunity – we have a lot of clients – so every 18 months people get their turn at the condo,” he said. “They come out, they love the town. The money we save not paying taxes – and I appreciate the tax argument and it’s how you run your town – so we spend that money on mileage, cleaning services so our folks can come out and have an affordable free holiday.”
While the organization may not have members in Canmore, Geake said they continue to fundraise in the community.
The original motion brought forward was to deny the society its tax exemption, but Coun. Joanna McCallum raised that a one-year transition that would allow them to bridge any funding gap, particularly given how not-for-profits have struggled during the pandemic.
“It’s a relatively small chunk of change to our municipality,” Coun. Wade Graham said. “They do good work. It’s a sector that’s been hit hard. I also recognize they are a well-funded organization. They have a property worth a fair chunk of change. Would this impact be substantial on their organization? I would argue it probably wouldn’t be. Having said all that, I’m amenable to a one-year break.”
A staff report to council noted nine organizations that represent 12 tax rolls applied for the property tax exemption. It also highlighted that staff reviewed the applications with the Town’s assessor, Benchmark Assessments Inc., and came to the conclusion neither group qualified.
The report had the Canmore Golf and Country Club assessed at $3.58 million in 2021 and paying $27,245 in property taxes, while the Calgary Scope Society was assessed at $704,400 and paid $1,641 in property taxes.