BCP abatement request turned down

Battlefords Community Players went into Monday night’s town council meeting seeking some financial help from Town Hall for its organization.

After the meeting, they were still seeking it. Council couldn’t come to a consensus on how best to help the organization, as they voted down a proposed 50 per cent tax abatement on BCP’s municipal portion of property taxes for 2019.

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Mayor Ames Leslie said after the meeting they will now explore other options for the group, which could include community grants or SaskLotteries funding.

“It’s defeated, but it’s not dead,” said Leslie.

“I think there’s overwhelming desire by the Town of Battleford to support this group, but at the same time they weren’t ready to do tax exemptions on that. It could open up a world of precedents and where do you start and when do you stop and who do you allow and who don’t you do. I think the town has the ability through the council administration to work with the group and find another solution to help them keep and operate in the Battlefords and have their base of operation in the town, without it being a reduction in taxation.”

Battlefords Community Players is based in Battleford at the old church on 102-26th Street. The organization purchased the property as a permanent clubhouse in 2012 and completed their renovations in 2017.

At Monday’s meeting their executive producer, Donna Challis, appeared before council and cited the commitment the organization had made to the town.

“All our funds go back into the community and the club for the next production,” said Challis.

Four productions are planned for this coming season, the next one being Don’t Dress for Dinner, happening Nov. 19-23.

“The biggest challenge to all of us, council included, is the rising, uncontrollable costs,” Challis said.  

Their request had been for the 50 per cent abatement in 2019 and for a 100 per cent abatement in future years, citing their charitable status as well as exemptions granted to the Cenotaph, the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and Kanaweyimik. The 50 per cent exemption would have amounted to $1,511.07 in 2019.

Town administration wasn’t so keen on the 100 per cent exemption. A memo provided to council from Chief Administrative Officer John Enns-Wind stated the “challenges facing BCP are not solvable through an ongoing tax exemption.”

Administration’s recommendation before council was to provide the 50 per cent abatement in 2019 but also “provide council with a business plan in 2020 that demonstrates when and how they will be sustainable without property tax exemptions in future years before any consideration is given to tax exemption for 2020.”

In the discussion that ensued at council Monday, only councillor Kevin Russell was on board with administration’s recommendation, as he expressed his desire to see a business plan from the organization.

Councillor Judy Pruden also supported an abatement, but her proposal was for 50 per cent over a period of three years.

But Councillor Susan McLean Tady as well as Mayor Leslie did not like the idea of a tax abatement at all, and that opinion ultimately carried the day at council as the abatement recommendation was defeated.

“I don’t believe taxes is where we should be getting the money from,” said McLean Tady. She liked the idea of the organization applying for a community grant instead.

Leslie was of the same opinion, and he believed there were other alternatives besides a tax abatement. 

“I think we can find ways to maybe thing outside the box to help these organizations survive without a tax credit,” said Leslie.

In the end the recommendation for the 50 per cent tax abatement was defeated, and there appeared to be no clear consensus.

“What I heard tonight is that council wants to be helpful, not sure how to be helpful,” was the comment from Enns-Wind at the meeting. He pledged to come back and perhaps offer some other proposals to council that could address the needs of the Battlefords Community Players.  

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