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After 160 years, Craigflower Schoolhouse about to get a property tax bill

There’s a first time for everything when it comes to taxes, even if it takes more than 160 years. The Craigflower Schoolhouse, a national historic site at 2755 Admirals Rd.
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Hallmark Heritage Society president Ken Johnson said he was ÒstaggeredÓ to get an notice from the B.C. Assessment Authority stating that the schoolhouse and the small plot of land it sits on have an assessed value of $138,000. The non-profit society leases the Saanich site for use as its office and for lectures.

 

There’s a first time for everything when it comes to taxes, even if it takes more than 160 years.

The Craigflower Schoolhouse, a national historic site at 2755 Admirals Rd. in Saanich, will face a property tax bill for the first time since it was built in 1855, says the president of the Hallmark Heritage Society.

Ken Johnson said he was “staggered” to get a notice from the B.C. Assessment Authority stating that the schoolhouse and its small plot of land have an assessed value of $138,000.

Based on 2016 tax rates in Saanich, he said, he anticipates the property tax will come to $2,809. The society’s annual budget ranges from $12,000 to $15,000.

“I’m in the process of trying to get it resolved,” Johnson said. “This property has never been taxed in all of its history since 1855.”

The Craigflower property is owned by the province. The non-profit society leases the schoolhouse for use as its office and for lectures on heritage issues.

The leasing arrangement kicked in on July 1, 2016, and the society could have quickly applied to have the property exempted from taxation.

But the society would have had to anticipate the tax bill, Johnson said, and make a formal request to Saanich by the end of that month to meet the district’s deadline for exemption applications.

Saanich said that property tax exemptions for non-profit organizations are controlled by the B.C. Assessment Authority. Exemptions can be approved only if a formal request is made.

Requests must be received in time to be included in an exemption bylaw, which provincial legislation requires council to adopt by the end of October.

“To date, we have not received an exemption request for this property,” the district said in a statement.

The district, which stressed its commitment to supporting non-profit groups, said it would be happy to work with the Hallmark Society with an application for future tax years.

Johnson said he would like to see the policy changed so that land or improvements on land owned by the Crown are exempt from municipal taxes as a matter of course.

“Before we took on the lease, this land was exempt,” he said.

Johnson said he has contacted the provincial heritage branch about the issue. He argues that Craigflower’s status as a national historic site should preclude property taxes.

The society pays for maintenance of the schoolhouse, he said, with the most recent estimate being several thousand dollars for window repairs that will replicate the construction standard of 1855.

Saanich issues tax notices in May after council passes its financial plan and all other tax rates are known.

kdedyna@timescolonist.com