Richmond supports policy for Low Income Tax Exemption

ARICHAT: Councillors expressed support for creating a Low Income Tax Exemption Policy.

During the committee-of-the-whole meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on May 13 in Arichat, interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Don Marchand reported to council that the policy is covered under Section 69 of the Municipal Government Act.

Marchand also provided council with a list of those eligible for the low income tax exemption by municipality, including the three municipalities in the province without such a policy, which includes Richmond County.

The interim CAO explained there are considerations before undertaking such a policy like tiered systems; income thresholds; having the dollar value exempted, versus a percentage; and budgeting. Marchand said council has to create an application process as part of the policy.

He suggested getting more information, including estimates on what the policy will cost.

After getting clarification whether the policy also includes Old Age Security Pensions, District 1 James Goyetche wanted to know how many inquiries have been made to municipal staff about such a program.

“Over the years, I guess maybe a dozen or so inquiries from residents,” Marchand responded. “When they call me about their tax bill, about how they’re going to pay them or whether the county had a low income tax exemption, I would refer them to the provincial program.”

Goyetche said the municipality needs to establish a low income threshold, which he suggested can be accomplished by investigating the policies and thresholds of other municipalities. He also wanted to know how this exemption would impact seniors since they’re already getting a provincial exemption.

“I think it’s something we can look at, but we need more information,” Goyetche said.

In reviewing other municipalities, Richmond Warden Brian Marchand noted that some municipalities, like Kings County, have very long lists of people exempted, much higher than larger municipalities like the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

District 2 councillor Alvin Martell said he originally raised the issue and asked that the policy proposal be circulated to all councillors.

“The seniors coalition that comes here on a regular basis and talks about what are we really doing with seniors that have a hard time to stay in their home, so I thought just maybe for information purposes to try to get as much information,” Martell told council.

“As a council, we could make a decision on if it’s something that we want to do. I’m kind of really surprised in a sense when I look at this information and see how many other counties are already doing it.”

Martell then made a motion asking staff to investigate the policy, which was approved.