Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall has joined 19 Lower Mainland mayors in requesting the province expand the Provincial Property Tax Deferment Program as soon as possible to include all property owners.
“We recognize that this pandemic has caused tremendous financial strain on everyone, particularly families and small business,” said Dingwall.
“Council and city staff are working tirelessly to respond quickly and effectively to best serve our community during these difficult times.
“This includes advocating to senior levels of government to help mitigate the impact to residents and businesses by deferring property tax due dates and providing additional financial support.”
Under the Community Charter, the province has the authority to defer property taxes for municipalities, which are due on the first regular business day after Canada Day.
Property tax deferment is currently available to B.C. homeowners who are 55 years or older, a surviving spouse, or eligible persons with disabilities.
Deferment is also available for homeowners who financially support children aged 18 and younger, or children over 18 who are attending school, or having a disability.
The letter is asking the province to:
• Expand the Provincial Property Tax Deferment Program (PPTDP) to include all property owners, including residential, business and non-profits;
• Standardize and extend the due date for other tax authority levies that are collected on behalf of other taxing authorities such as the Province, TransLink, Metro Vancouver and other regional bodies;
• Provide support to all renters and landlords; and
• Provide direct, unconditional grants to municipalities to cover revenue losses as a result of COVID-19 closures and measures.
“What this will do is allow people to postpone paying us until the fall,” said Dingwall,
“By then, hopefully we’ll be on the road to recovery and out of this pandemic, so it’s buying people time to utilize that money in the interim and defer their taxes until then.”
While the costs of deferment could affect Pitt Meadows’ cash flow significantly, Dingwall said the city does have some options in the short term.
“The city is looking at what we may need to do in terms of bridge financing with the Municipal Finance Authority,” Dingwall said.
“We’ve got a really good credit rating, so we have access to borrow money from [them].”
With tight budgets being stretched to their limit, the mayor said there is no plan to reduce property taxes any time soon.
“Our costs are pretty much fixed, whether it’s employee costs or infrastructure costs, so we don’t have a lot of flexibility in our budget,” Dingwall said, adding Pitt Meadows property taxes are already the lowest in the Metro Vancouver area.
“But those are things that our council will eventually ponder if we need to deal with that.”
Right now, the loss of cash flow from the recreation centre going unused, as well as development applications drying up, in addition to the incremental costs of putting up fences around playgrounds, and other labour costs, is forcing the city to be careful with its finances.
“It’s clearly something that we weren’t anticipating this year, next year or the year after but it’s upon us and now we’re trying to make our way through this, while making informed decisions as we go,” Dingwall said.