Petrolia wants Discovery to open books for tax break

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Petrolia is willing to waive Petrolia Discovery’s taxes but it comes with the condition of the foundation board opening up the books.

The Municipal Act allows the town to give exemptions to some organizations, such as local legions and some charities. The Discovery Foundation has been tax exempt for at least four years with about $15,226 in taxes being waived.

But this year, CAO Manny Baron says the town is asking for something in return for the tax exemption. “Meeting with the board have been requested to discuss how the town can add value and how we can partner with Discovery to ensure its viability for many, many years to come,” he writes in a report to council. “We continue to be open for meetings to discuss how we can help, however, we seem to be at a stand still.”

So council approved Baron’s request for conditions on the exemption including the foundation must show the town audited financial statements by July 1, 2015, the town has a copy of the short and long-term business plan, and is provided the details of the loan from the Sarnia Lambton Business Development Corporation.

Council also wants to meet with the foundation four times a year.

Mayor John McCharles says asking for financial information from charities to obtain the tax exemption is not unusual. For years, the Petrolia Legion presented the town with its complete books before receiving the grant.

“We said to them a couple of years ago not to bother anymore,” he says it is clear what the Legion contributes to the town.

McCharles says the Petrolia Enniskillen Agricultural Society also provides its financial statements each year before receiving a grant from council.

“It’s not unusual (to ask for the access to financial records); it’s a normal request,” says McCharles.

“I think that’s sort of our way of saying were here to help.”

He adds including the request for meetings with the board “formalizes” a request the town has made for some time.

McCharles adds years ago, the town had two councilors on the foundation board who relayed this type of information on a regular basis.”

Joel Campbel, the chair of the foundation board, says the board filled out the information for the exemption but had not been contacted by the town about the conditions. Campbell didn’t want to make a comment “until I receive the report from the Town of Petrolia and until we discuss it as a board”

The foundation board has a meeting scheduled for the next week.