Port Alberni City Council has adjusted its new permissive tax exemption bylaw after a presentation from the Black Sheep Rugby Club.
Randy Thoen, a director on the board of the Port Alberni Black Sheep Rugby Club, explained during a council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 15 that the city’s new permissive tax exemption process failed to accurately capture the club’s contributions to youth in the community.
Thoen admitted that the miscommunication was partially the fault of the rugby club.
“I think we need to put our hand up and take some responsibility in that we didn’t clearly understand the process either,” he said.
With the city’s new assessment, the club would have been going from no cost over the past 24 years to a cost of $11,212 in city taxes in 2020. The new assessment, according to Thoen, would “financially burden” their organization.
“It will affect our ability to provide rugby programs for little or no cost to youth in the future,” said Thoen. “Without reassessment and our current financial position, the Black Sheep Rugby Club will no longer be sustainable.”
The Black Sheep Rugby Club, which has been active since 1979, formed a partnership with the City of Port Alberni in 1996, allowing the rugby club to develop a field and clubhouse on the top of Argyle Street. The Black Sheep incurred all expenses in the development of the field, while the city provides regular maintenance.
Although the Black Sheep are known for their Div. 1 men’s rugby team, Thoen explained that this isn’t all that the Black Sheep do in Port Alberni. Of the total of 304 people playing rugby in Port Alberni last year, more than 90 percent of those players were youth.
“It’s pretty clear that youth is the major part of our club,” said Thoen.
Based on this information, he asked the city for a 100 percent permissive tax exemption.
After his presentation, council agreed to amend the bylaw. Deputy director of finance Rosalyn Macauley reassessed the exemption, taking into consideration the youth involvement, the club’s caretaker suite, rental sales and alcohol sales. Based on the city’s new policy, which reduces exemptions based on commercial sales, she recommended a 79 percent tax exemption to be paid by the city—meaning that the Black Sheep will pay a total of $2,824.85 in taxes.
“While we would love to give full exemptions to everyone, I think it’s very important that we follow the policy and keep it consistent,” explained Mayor Sharie Minions on Tuesday.
Council gave third reading to the bylaw on Tuesday. The final reading and adoption of the bylaw must take place by Oct. 31, otherwise no organizations will receive permissive tax exemptions.