While the City of New Westminster recognizes the COVID-19 crisis is hitting some residents in their pocketbooks, it’s urging those who can pay their property taxes on time to do so.
At Monday’s meeting, city council approved the 2020 to 2024 five-year financial plan bylaw, which includes a 3.1% property tax increase in 2020 and a 1% emergency fund levy.
At the same meeting, council approved a staff recommendation to maintain the property tax payment due date of July 2. The city will, however, change this year’s property tax penalty date to Oct. 1
A staff report states the penalty rate of 10% for overdue property taxes is set by the province, but a municipality may set the date at which the penalty is levied to the taxpayer.
According to the report, the city’s current practice is to set the due date at July 2, as per the Community Charter, and to charge a 10% penalty by levying an initial penalty of 5% on July 2 and a second penalty of 5% on Sept. 2.
“Changing some of the penalty dates will relieve some of the stresses of some of our residents and businesses that are particularly being hit,” Mayor Jonathan Cote said of the Oct. 1 date. “That is giving them a bit more time to deal with some difficult situations. But I think the message also has to get out to residents and businesses that are able to pay their property taxes, that they still continue to do that at the regular time this year because, ultimately, that is the main funding source for the city, and that’s how we are able to continue the operations that we do.”
Cote said he hopes staff will provide regular updates to council in the summer about what’s happening in terms of property tax payments.
“This is available for those that do need it,” he said.
The province recently announced it was postponing the late payment penalties for commercial properties, as well as some industrial and business properties, until Oct. 1. While the province did not extend that late payment extension to municipalities, New Westminster has opted to join other Metro Vancouver municipalities that have chosen to move the penalty date to Oct. 1, at which time residential property owners would have to pay the full amount or pay a 10% penalty.
Lyle said the July 2 deadline is important as it ensures the city has some cash flow, but the city’s financial modeling has taken into account that some property owners may not pay their taxes by that deadline.