Taxing situation for Ships Company, town

Andrew
Andrew Wagstaff
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PARRSBORO Ships Company Theatre and the Town of Parrsboro have come to a stalemate over property tax that threatens the future of the company, according to Chuck Homewood.

Its not affordable, said Homewood, general manager of the 23-year-old theatre. It just cant go on because it does spell a financial difficulty for the company that is not sustainable in the long term.

The company has been arguing for the past two-and-half years that it should be exempt from municipal taxes like

PARRSBORO Ships Company Theatre and the Town of Parrsboro have come to a stalemate over property tax that threatens the future of the company, according to Chuck Homewood.

Its not affordable, said Homewood, general manager of the 23-year-old theatre. It just cant go on because it does spell a financial difficulty for the company that is not sustainable in the long term.

The company has been arguing for the past two-and-half years that it should be exempt from municipal taxes like the majority of non-profit theatres and similar organizations throughout Nova Scotia and the Atlantic provinces. Theatres like Mulgrave Road Theatre in Guysborough or Neptune Theatre in Halifax are either exempt from paying municipal taxes or receive grants from the municipality that offset the tax bill 100 per cent.

Others like Festival Antigonish or Theatre New Brunswick in Fredericton rent space that is not subject to property tax, as it is owned either by a university or the municipality. Mermaid Theatre in Windsor is the only other non-profit theatre that owns property and pays property taxes.

Considering the importance of the theatre to Parrsboro, Homewood said he feels they deserve to have an arrangement like the many other tax-exempt theatres in the region.

Theyre all different arrangements but they are something where each council has obviously decided there is equal benefit to the community for having this institution, just like a church or a hospital or a library, he said. We just feel there isnt that recognition from town council here in Parrsboro.

Originally billed almost $30,000 a year in taxes for its new facility, Ships Company now pays $8,000 per year in property taxes, offset by a grant from the town that was this year raised from $2,000 to $3,000. But it is still an enormous financial burden for a company to shoulder in a small town, according to Homewood.

The theatre now pays tax on 22 per cent of its property through a split-tax arrangement that the town also has with other organizations in the community, according to Mayor Doug Robinson, who said he has yet to see any significant evidence showing why Ships Company should be free from paying taxes.

It isnt that we didnt give them a break, said the mayor. We just didnt give them the break they wanted.

The town does not have enough of a tax base to allow granting tax-free status to Ships Company, according to Robinson, who said that position was explained to theatre representatives in a previous meeting. In subsequent meetings, nothing was presented to the town to address that concern, he said.

If they can come back with something reasonably logical, at least the town would have something to listen to, he said. If they could do a survey of the residents of Parrsboro and show me the majority of people in Parrsboro want us to give them tax-free status, then wouldnt that be a good argument?

Robinson was chairman of the Ships Company Theatre board of directors for four years, and said he understands the importance of the theatre to the town, but is not willing to sell the farm to make them happy.

I also will agree theres an argument on both sides, but I havent seen sufficient argument to allow me to change my mind, he said. Im not spending my money, Im spending the towns money, and my duty is to be as thrifty as possible and balanced in judging the tax rate with the requirements we have.

awagstaff@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Ships Company, Mulgrave Road Theatre, Neptune Theatre Theatre New Brunswick Theatre in Windsor

Geographic location: PARRSBORO, Nova Scotia, Guysborough Halifax Fredericton

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