Langley City council denied a property tax exemption to the Langley Food Bank this year, but some councillors encouraged them to apply for a community grant as well.
The food bank’s executive director Jim Calmunce appeared via Zoom at the Sept. 28 council meeting to ask for the permissive tax exemption.
He said that the food bank is a Christian ministry but serves anyone who qualifies financially.
“No one gets turned away because of their religion, beliefs, ethnicity or sexual preference,” Calamunce said.
A client of the food bank, Jane, also spoke.
“I wouldn’t know what to do without the food bank,” said the double amputee who’s living on a low income.
The food bank was serving about 670 families and individuals early in the year, but has seen demand jump by more than 150 households.
Mayor Val van den Broek called for the Langley Food Bank to be added to the list of permissive tax exemptions via an amendment, and saw support from several council members.
“This is an essential service,” said Councillor Rudy Storteboom.
Van den Broek noted that more people would lose their homes and jobs due to COVID-19 and the food bank was badly needed.
“We’re one of the only cities that doesn’t grant it [food banks],” said van den Broek.
But other councillors were worried about giving tax exemptions without any policy and guidance.
“The food bank is doing a great job in our community, and clearly there is a lot of community support for them,” said Coun. Nathan Pachal.
But he noted that tax exemptions have been largely ad hoc. Some organizations get them because they operate on City-owned land, while others seem to have received them for years, while other groups haven’t, such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters office in the City.
“I would 100 per cent support a grant application they made,” Pachal said.
“My challenge this year is that we have four individual organizations ask, and I don’t know enough about each organization about who we should pick and choose and who we should not,” said Coun. Teri James.
She pointed to other worthwhile groups that had requested exemptions as well.
The vote on the amendment failed four to three.