New policy needs more study

A new policy proposed by administration at the District of Fort St. James will be re-examined before being adopted.

A new policy proposed by administration at the District of Fort St. James will be re-examined before being adopted.

The proposed policy’s object would be to “provide a policy and procedure with respect to the acceptance of donations, and the issue of government issued donation receipts for tax purposes” according to the draft in the agenda.

The policy would set out specific criteria for accepting donations and issuing tax donation letters.

The policy was written by Jeffrey Lovell, director of finance for the district, to address his concerns regarding requests for taxable donation receipts for donations to local organizations and any conflicts this may have with the Income Tax Act.

“This won’t drastically effect what we do,” said Lovell, who said he wrote the policy based on what he read from other municipalities across the country.

Lovell said the policy would not impact the district’s ability to accept granting for non-profits, but the intent of the policy was not apparent to everyone, as some raised concerns at the council meeting about how it would or could be implemented.

Some local non-profit organizations worried the policy might impact their ability to fundraise or even function.

“When we saw the policy come out, people were concerned,” said Ann McCormick, board member of the Fort St. James Community Foundation, at the council meeting.

“The support that the district has provided in the past has given small societies the opportunities to move grant applications forward, and even the college,” said McCormick. “These organizations strive to make Fort St. James a better place to be.”

She pointed out how critical support from the district has been to the Community Foundation and other organizations in the past but also acknowledged it does create some additional workload for the district staff.

“If we were a larger center, I would understand that council might need to have ‘hands-off’ for these kinds of opportunities because you might not know who these societies are, but in our community we know who these societies are and who does the work in our community.”

McCormick researched the policies and practices in place in the nearby communities of Vanderhoof and Burns Lake and found neither community had a similar policy in place and are happy to facilitate donations, with Burns Lake requiring council approval for these types of donations earmarked for specific groups and partnerships on applications, while Vanderhoof does not require council to approve of them first.

She urged the mayor and council to do further research before moving forward with the policy.

“Our society benefited from this service when we received funds from the Integris Credit Union, and we feel that many of the non-profits in this town would be negatively effected if the filtering system was discontinued, we would urge you to consider this very carefully before attempting to eliminate the support of the service,” said Lynn George, a board member for Greening Up Fort St. James.

There was extensive discussion on the policy, with many at the meeting putting forward their concerns and asking questions about the differences between Fort St. James and communities who have no such restrictive policy such as Vanderhoof and Burns Lake,

Mayor Rob MacDougall agreed the policy needs to be researched further and said it was important to find a way to continue to work with non-profits in the community.

The policy was not adopted and has been tabled pending legal advice and further research.