Victoria gives legion relief on unexpected tax increase

The City of Victoria will help the Royal Canadian Legion Trafalgar Pro Patria Branch with its taxes this year.

In a decision that still had to be ratified Thursday evening, councillors unanimously supported providing the legion with a grant of $36,481 to cover a tax increase from an unexpected increase in property assessment.

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“I’m going to have to say I was pleased because for years and years we’ve had no movement from the City of Victoria. None,” said Angus Stanfield, chairman of the Victoria Remembrance Day Committee Poppy fund.

The legion had budgeted about $70,000 for taxes but, instead, due to an unexpected change in property assessment faced a bill of $104,231 — up from $71,371 last year — and said it simply could not afford to pay the increased bill.

The legion’s 2019 property assessment for its branch at 411 Gorge Rd. E. was $7,082,500, up from $4,292,000 in 2018.

Councillors referred the question of whether to forgive a portion or all of future taxes to the fall.

Stanfield said it’s a common misconception that the legion is just a drinking establishment. The reality is the legion is a not-for-profit agency that raises thousands of dollars for charities.

Much of the money it raises comes from gaming, which has strict guidelines, and the sale of Remembrance Day poppies, which has even stricter guidelines.

“Not one cent of that can be used to pay for the hydro or anything to keep the doors open,” he said.

“For all that we do for the community ,we could do so much more given the opportunity.”

The Trafalgar branch will support a number of community agencies to the tune of $153,000 in 2019 including: Anawim House, Victoria Single Resource Centre, Burnside Gorge Community Association, Operation Trackshoes, Victoria Women’s Transition House, Victoria Hospice Society, Military Police Blind Children’s Fund, Gorge Soccer Association, Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, Veterans’ Transition Program, Vancouver Island Compassion Dog, Cockerell House, The Lodge at Broadmead and Legion Manor seniors housing.

Councillors agreed to lobby the province through the Union of B.C. Municipalities to consider a provincewide policy for municipalities to provide tax exemptions for legions.

Victoria councillors’ decision comes after they hastily retreated from a proposal to approach the Department of National Defence and Department of Veterans Affairs to help pay for policing at military events, including Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Those council discussions, which fell on June 6, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, sparked national outrage.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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