École Sans Frontière has received its tax exemption from the city.
The Greater North Central Francophone Education Region is a non-profit organization that runs the school out of the building on 4204 54 Avenue. The GNC asked the city for a tax exemption as it is a school and receives exemptions from other municipalities where their schools are located.
Council voted 4-3 in favour of the bylaw with Councillors Baker, Fagnan and Buckingham voting against it. Normally, the school would receive a tax exemption without question in both Alberta and Saskatchewan. However, the Lloydminster Charter requires the GNC to own the building to get it.
Councillor Stephanie Munroe voted in favour citing several reasons including the education aspect as well as the non-profit aspect.
“There’s a caveat in the Charter that allows to exempt any non-profit from paying property taxes. Rather than education this is where it falls for me.”
She also mentions the legal ramifications that Councillor Torresan had brought up during the meeting. A francophone school is protected under the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If legal action were taken then the city and province would lead to a lengthy court battle.
“There is the possibility of legal action if there were any adversities to whether we were going against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or against our Charter. From that standpoint, I think it’s important that we are taking $17,000 out of our tax roll but potentially the amount of money we would be saving on legal costs would be a lot more than $17,000.”
Councillor Ken Baker says he doesn’t disagree with the school he only disagrees that the city should be the one funding it.
“We’ve got to be cognisant of what’s going on in this city and every city. We have to watch what we’re doing with the tax dollars because families have to pay. Certainly some people can afford it but a lot of people are average people trying to make a living. We have to make sure they can afford to live here.”
Baker says the exemption is another example of how provincial governments are downloading costs onto municipalities and taxpayers.
“The two provinces say they want it but they’re not funding it and if that isn’t downloading I don’t know what is. We have a new policy called the non-profit organization policy and we just introduced it in the last year. It’s out the window when you do stuff like this.”
City staff calculate that the city would receive $17,000 less in property taxes with the exemption.