Whitehorse museums to begin paying property tax to city

A last-ditch attempt to amend the Whitehorse's grant policy to exclude museums from paying property tax was voted down last night, meaning that the city's museums will pay tax for the first time in over a half-century.

Final attempt at amending grant policy voted down at city council meeting Tuesday night

Whitehorse's MacBride Museum of Yukon History will have to pay a portion of its assessed property tax for the first time in over 50 years after an amendment to the city's grant program was voted down yesterday. (Facebook)

After over 50 years of having their property taxes forgiven, Whitehorse museums will now have to pay property tax to city government after the decision was finalized Monday night.

The city previously used grant funds to museums, that covered the taxes museums owed. A change to the policy was previously proposed in 2013, but was voted down

The idea was re-introduced in 2014, and now, the city's museums will have to pay a portion of their assessed property tax.

The MacBride Museum of Yukon History and Yukon Transportation Museum petitioned the City to be exempt from the new policy. In a Monday night meeting, however, Whitehorse city council voted to keep the grant policy as is.

Mayor Dan Curtis attempted to amend the policy one last time at the meeting, saying that "they [MacBride] are the only museum that holds title on their property, and are located in a prime, core commercial location, and are subject to a higher assessment."

The amendment, though, was rejected with a tie vote. Councilor Joselyn Curteanu argued that instead, museums should be in a special class, rather than giving one museum special treatment over the others.

"We're amending this policy to ensure that we have equitable treatment for the organizations," she said. 

Councillor Mike Gladish says he thinks it's fair for museums to pay taxes like other organizations.

"We all supported developing that grant making policy," he says, "and the city administration put a lot of time into it. And I think it's a good, solid policy that does level the playing field.

"If we had unlimited tax revenue, I would say let's not charge any of them tax, but at this point I think we need to make it fair and equitable."

Keith Halliday, president of the MacBride Museum, previously told CBC that the museum may be forced to cut hours and programming if it was forced to pay property taxes.

In November 2014, he said property taxes could rise to about $5,000 in 2015 — a number that would have a significant impact on an organization with core funding of $110,000.

Museums will have a four year phased-in system to pay taxes to the city.


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