With the Oyama Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion in danger of closing down permanently, the District of Lake Country has given the non-profit group partial savings on the property taxes it pays.
But at least one Lake Country councillor was hoping the district would go further.
Located in the Oyama Community Centre the Legion pays property taxes that are levied because it operates a lounge, where members that fought in various wars including the second World War, the Korean War and now the Afghanistan War can enjoy an alcoholic beverage.
But with membership dwindling and the group in debt to the Oyama Community Hall, the Legion had applied to the district for tax exempt status.
“The only way we can pay our expenses and these taxes is through monies generated by our bar,” said Rob Nairne, secretary for the Oyama Legion, Branch 189. “That unfortunately has declined significantly due to very stringent drinking and driving laws that have cost us business and membership.”
After making a presentation to council and asking for tax exempt status, already given to several other non-profits in Lake Country, DLC councillors weren’t convinced the Legion needed a full exemption and instead voted for the 50 per cent exemption.
“I guess I can’t talk the other councillors into going for the full savings,” asked Coun. Rob Geier, who received no support for his offer before council voted unanimously on the 50 per cent savings.
Coun. Lisa Cameron put forward the motion and said she didn’t think there would be enough support to ask for a full tax exemption.
“Fifty per cent was a compromise,” said Cameron. “I really wanted to help them out but we have to be careful of those exemptions because a lot of groups are looking for them.”
Nairne said most of the executive of the Legion were happy with the reduction.
“We’re in trouble but 50 per cent is 50 per cent,” said Nairne. “If it’s $1,500 savings that’s significant. If we could have had it all that would have been nice but anything will help.”
Nairne said the Legion donated more than $11,000 last year to various Lake Country organizations with money raised at the lounge. It also provided four scholarships to Lake Country students with Nairne saying this year that number will likely be reduced due to a lack of funds.
Lake Country council wasn’t willing to forgive all of the property taxes with district staff saying the Legion operates a lounge that is deemed to be a business. Nairne says the only way the Legion is able to pay the property taxes as well as other expenses is through the club’s lounge.
The partial exemption was for a five-year period but staff has been directed to have a look to see how the savings is affecting the Legion after one year.