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Churches targetted for property taxes

I have learned from a downtown church leader that the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation is targetting some places of worship to assess their community gathering spaces (eg. parish hall) for the purpose of assessing property tax. This has already been done in churches throughout Ontario to disastrous effect.
Many churches offer their community space to local groups; if places of worship will now have to pay property tax on those spaces, the cost will be prohibitive to the church and the community group, and these important activities in our community places of worship will end.

I have contacted downtown churches, most of whom are very concerned. I’ll be hosting a meeting of community faith leaders, date and time to be confirmed, to discuss the issue and plan a coordinated response.

My take: Places of worship provide many valuable community services that simply wouldn’t exist or would be cost-prohibitive to users if the private sector or government had to provide them. In recognition of the valuable role they play in our community, places of worship have been property-tax exempt. We need to keep it that way, or our communities will suffer.

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward
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  1. If I set aside a room in my home for community use, perhaps even a separate entrance, online scheduling system and it is entirely inclusive of all people in the community, is there any reason why I could not become property tax exempt?

  2. As long as the Church services, functions and facilities are open to all members of the community, regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, sex, gender, sexual orientation, political views, etc., then they should remain off the tax roll.

    If the Church discriminates based on any of those factors, then they should be taxed like any other revenue-generating business.

  3. Am in complete agreement with tax exemptions for churches and houses of worship. Indeed the communities would suffer terribly. Knox Burlington along with other downtown churches provide many programmes and assistance type facilities and help to sustain those unable to sustain themselves. Should taxes be implemented in houses of worship, countless people would suffer.

  4. Hello Marianne, we are a nation of “nickel and dimers” and with taxing the churches we have hit rock bottom. Churches should remain tax free as they serve a public function and if you are not part of a church group, sooner or later you will derive some type of benefit, tangible or otherwise from a church programme. Are we that desperate that we need to tax churches and if we do, it has to be made up by the congregation which means more money out of our pockets. It is a no brainer…tax free churches have existed in the past and must continue!

  5. Someone mentioned the availability of space if Churches were to stop allowing the different groups to use this space. Not only are these programs and spaces free they are also available anytime. If the City were to provide the space presently being provided by the Churches firstly it would be far from free and only available (if available at all) during specific times. Check the hourly rates for City Buildings and the times they are available. Surprising how little you receive for so much. Ever wonder why your kids can’t go swimming when the pools are empty so much of the time?


  6. Hi Marianne,

    I wanted to let you know my feedback re. the property taxes for churches. I am glad
    that churches are finally about to be required to pay their dues in society. I
    have serious problems with their tax-exempt status in general but I will focus
    on why I think they should be required to pay property taxes.

    You suggest that these churches have community centres, some of which are
    available to the public. Unfortunately, I do not believe that the community at
    large should be subsidizing churches for community rooms that aren’t accessible
    to them. If a church doesn’t have a community room, they should certainly be
    paying taxes as they offer nothing to the community at large.

    Churches that do have rooms available for groups in the community, I want to know whether those
    rooms are accessible to ALL members of the community, including groups that
    churches historically discriminate against such as gay and lesbian groups and
    secular/atheist groups. Unless these churches have an open door policy for
    everybody in the community, I do not think that the groups they exclude should
    be forced to subsidize them.

    If these churches expect the entire community to subsidize their properties then
    they need to prove to the community, 1) that they have a space for rent, 2) that
    no group is excluded from renting the room. Any church that doesn’t meet both
    these criteria, at a minimum, should be subsidized by the people they don’t
    exclude, rather than the ones they do. They should not be entitled to any
    support from the community at large unless they serve the community at large.

    As an atheist nothing drives me crazier than the special treatment churches
    receive tax wise for proselytizing and excluding groups they disapprove of, be
    it atheists or gays and lesbians. As a result I cannot support any sort of tax
    break for them unless it can be demonstrated that they are going to serve me,
    and others like me, as well.

  7. MPAC is an evil entity. When your house value goes up, your local government gets a free raise, without doing anything for it. Re-assessment growth in Hamilton was 1.5% last year. The games is rigged.

  8. I belong to another church, and “part” of our contribution to the community are free weekly suppers to about 130 people. We also have a program whereby needy people can come into our “store” and select from a wide array of clothing at zero cost! We are also part of a group who provide, again at no cost, containers of fruit and vegetables to needy families. There are a number of other programs that are priceless to the people of our community.Additional expenses to the church would no doubt be a disaster to the many people who enjoy these benefits. Add all this to the previous “letter” and it is easy to see that destroying these programs will be a disaster for our needy “neighbours”.

  9. Religious groups as a whole engage only a minority of citizens (church attendance is very low) and each specific group represents a tiny proportion of the community. To suggest that these tiny minorities should continue to avoid municipal tax solely because they occasionally make their facilities available for other community members is wrong. Especially since they are so restrictive about who they let use their facilities. I might be more accepting of them continuing their tax exempt status if, for instance, the catholic parish hall was being used for a family planning clinic that advocated abortion as an option, or if the salvation hall was being used for a GLBT dance, or…In any case, good community service includes paying fair and equitable taxes. It is time these groups accepted their responsibilities.

  10. I certainly don’t favour taxing churches for letting out their premises for free. But what about those who make a profit from day care outfits, using their facilities?

  11. As a member of the Port Nelson United Church group that assists in the Community Dinners at Wellington Square U.C., I see first had the direct benefit to deserving community members both in terms of a good meal and social contact. We are being taxed to death in Canada and this is a cause for which you have my full support.

    • You are obviously not a church goer/member.! If you were, you would not make such a statement. You do not have a clue as to how much churches help the needy within your community. Have the courage (intelligence?) to check one out.

What's your take?