Lantzville council gives tax break to private school

NANAIMO – B.C. legislation could make it mandatory to grant permissive tax exemptions to independent schools' playgrounds and parking lots.

The largest tax break the District of Lantzville gives next year could be for Aspengrove School.

Lantzville politicians added Aspengrove back into the roster of proposed tax-exempt properties, a year after denying the school a tax break.

Lantzville council included the school in its permissive tax exemption bylaw, now one vote away from adoption, with plans to forgo $5,980 in taxes in 2016. The next-highest exemption would be for Costin Hall at $4,840.

The move came just days before the first three readings were passed in the British Columbia legislature for a bill that mandates tax breaks for independent schools.

With the potential legislation, Coun. John Coulson said he wanted to err on the side of caution financially and not plan fiscally for money being there when there is a chance the municipality might lose it.

A year ago, Lantzville district council denied a tax break to Aspengrove School, with opponents arguing the school isn’t in dire straits and residents shouldn’t subsidize a private school.

It was called the most extreme position of any municipality in B.C. by Peter Froese, executive director of the Federation of Independent School Associations, who was lobbying the province to take permissive tax exemptions for independent schools out of the hands of local government.

Municipalities are required to give tax breaks for independent school buildings, but have had the right to decide if they should also exempt playgrounds and parking lots. That could change under a property taxation statutes amendment act, which passed third reading Sept. 30 and would make exemptions mandatory for playing fields, playgrounds and parking lots owned and operated by independent schools.

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