By Kalinowski, Tim on May 6, 2020.
City council unanimously voted to suspend late penalties on unpaid property taxes for 90 days to help local residents and business owners who may be struggling to pay their annual tax bill due to effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the local economy.
Property taxes will still be due on June 30 as usual, but the council vote on Monday ensured no late penalties would be applied until at least Sept. 30.
Coun. Jeff Carlson moved the motion to suspend the penalties for three months.
“This is a deferral on taxes for 92 days,” stated Carlson. “This is not a tax holiday for folks, but it is to try to give some folks who are experiencing immediate needs and concerns some options until things return to some sense of normal. These are challenging times, and this is one thing city council does have in its toolkit to help folks in the community who are experiencing challenges.”
Mayor Chris Spearman reminded residents and business owners after the vote that property taxes were still due as of June 30 as normal, and it was only the penalties which were deferred until Sept. 30.
“We understand there is going to be some challenges for some businesses and some residents who have had income interruption,” explained Spearman. “It hasn’t been business as usual. We’re optimistic some businesses will be starting to get back on track toward the end of June, and some residents will restore their form of employment. What this does is give those who need it a break.”
Spearman encouraged those who still could pay their taxes by June 30 to do so, because for any revenue shortfall as a result of unpaid taxes the City would have to charge it to its $60-million credit line, which will eventually have to be made up by local taxpayers anyway.
“Unfortunately the City may have to go into, in effect, overdraft, which will mean an additional cost in terms of operating,” stated Spearman. “The City will have to pay interest on that and ultimately taxpayers will have to pay for that. We want to encourage people who can to pay their taxes by June 30 as per normal. And those who are struggling, we are providing an interest-free three-month period where they will have opportunities to hopefully catch up.”
In statement released on Tuesday, the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce applauded city council for stepping up to help local business owners in this manner.
“Our business community has been impacted in an unprecedented manner,” said Cyndi Vos, Executive Officer, Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce. “With this financial plan, Council has approved a three-month grace period after the payment deadline to give property owners the extra time to pay their taxes if needed. It’s a measure the Chamber has advocated to them for and will provide flexibility for those who need it. I am extremely happy that Council has taken this step.”
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