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This article was published 7/4/2020 (196 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Brandon City Council passed new measures on Monday evening in an effort to help ease the financial burden on city residents during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The measures include delaying the municipal property tax payment date past the current June 30 deadline, changing the city’s tax instalment plan to make it more flexible and waiving some fees for not paying taxes on time.
Mayor Rick Chrest first asked city administration to consider the move in March. On Monday evening, he said it is aimed at helping people who lost their jobs, had their hours reduced or whose business was forced to close as a result of the public health situation.
The motion that was approved pushed back the property tax payment deadline until July 31, but that will likely be further pushed back into September to align with the province, Chrest said.
The tax instalment plan, which lets residents pay their property tax bill in monthly deposits from their bank accounts rather than all at once, was also changed. Rather than paying the exact same amount through direct deposits each month, residents will now be able to work with the city to find a plan that works best for them.
City treasurer Dean Hammond said the city will work with people to make sure they can pay their taxes in full by Dec. 31, 2020. That could mean paying smaller amounts in the short term while they get back on their feet and larger monthly amounts later in the year, but the city wants to put people in a strong position.
"We don’t know how long this situation is going to last or what’s going to happen the remainder of the year," he said.
The deadline to register for the program was extended until July 15.
The 1.25 per cent monthly fee on not paying property taxes was also waived until October for individual residents.
Coun. Glen Parker (Riverview) said he supported the measures, but city council still has to keep the financial health of the City of Brandon in mind. The measures approved on Monday are meant to be temporary.
Hammond told The Sun in late March that the City of Brandon is expecting a significant revenue hit from the pandemic. Many businesses have been forced to shut down and thousands of people across the province have lost their jobs, which means they may not be able to pay their taxes.
Brandon Transit has also been offering free service since at least March 20 so the virus is not spread on physical cash payments. The measures will continue until the pandemic is over, and the city currently doesn’t know how long transit services will run without collecting revenue.
The Sportsplex is also closed due to the pandemic, further limiting the revenue the city takes in.
Hammond acknowledged that the measures approved on Monday will also have an impact on the city’s cash flow, but the finance department is comfortable with pushing back the tax payment deadline. It’s a complicated situation, but he said that’s why the department came up with three different options.
Property taxes account for more than 50 per cent of the revenue the City of Brandon collects each year, according to the 2020 municipal budget. Hammond said approximately three-quarters of the city’s revenue normally comes in on June 30, the normal property tax deadline.
While the options are there for people who need it, Chrest said people who can pay their taxes on time still should. Banks, which pay property taxes on mortgaged properties, will continue to pay taxes on June 30, so not all revenue has been affected.
Coun. Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine) echoed this, saying people whose financial situation hasn’t changed should pay on time so people in a more precarious position have leeway.
Both Coun. Kris Desjarlais (Rosser) and Coun. Ron Brown (Richmond) were not physically present at the meeting and called in to participate. Other city councillors physically distanced themselves and spread out around the room.
Members of the public were also barred from attending due to the pandemic, but the meeting was livestreamed on the city’s YouTube channel.
» Twitter: @DrewMay_
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