Free playgrounds are closed, but so are rec facilities and the casino in Langley City, causing a financial issue for city halls. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Langley Advance Times)

Langley mayors worried about financial impact of COVID-19

It’s unknown how many households will be able to pay their property taxes

Langley’s civic leaders are waiting to hear how big an impact the coronavirus will have on the balance sheets of the City and Township.

“We don’t have the casino proceeds, we don’t have the traditional revenues,” said City Mayor Val van den Broek.

In the short term, local governments are facing a loss of revenue from their shut-down recreational properties. There are no rentals for sports facilities, no people paying to swim or skate or play on sports fields, but all those facilities still have fixed costs to keep them maintained.

“Like any other business, our costs are going up with reduced revenues,” said Township Mayor Jack Froese.

But they are also worried about what will happen when it comes time to pay property taxes.

Taxes are due the first business day after Canada Day. But this year, more than a million Canadians have already lost their jobs.

Canadian mayors are warning that they will likely take a major hit as some households may not be able to pay on time, or at all.

“We don’t have any information on who will or will not pay their taxes,” said Froese.

The Township already revised its budget at the last minute to reduce this year’s tax increase by half, to two per cent.

Council also voted to slash the deadline for late payment of taxes from five per cent down to 1.75 per cent.

In Langley City, staff are expected to present a report on the financial fallout at the meeting on Monday, April 27. The meeting will be held at 3 p.m. via Zoom, noted van den Broek.

By provincial law, municipal governments can’t rack up operating deficits.

When a property owner can’t pay their tax, they have three years to make the payments. After that, land can be seized for tax sales. It can be auctioned off for cash at an annual event, although in recent years such sales have become very rare in Langley.

In the Township, policies have changed in recent years and there has been a focus on helping people meet their obligations and to keep their land.

But in the past, tax sales were more common. There are several well-known parks in Langley that were acquired as tax sales, including Brown Park on 240th Street, and portions of the forested lands near the Blaauw Eco-forest in Glen Valley.

A number of those lands were acquired in the 1930s during the Great Depression, when landowners couldn’t afford to pay their taxes.

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