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the Gauntlet

Rez seeks property tax exemption

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Three-hundred thousand dollars is enough money to pay for 60 years of university, a Ferrari, or a new house in the suburbs.

It is also the approximate amount of money Residence Services pays annually to the City of Calgary in property taxes for the residence buildings. However, for the second year in a row, Residence Services is filing a formal tax appeal in an effort to have the tax reduced.

Residence Services director Joel Lynn explained the reasoning behind the appeal, which returned $40,000 last year.

"Most [residences at] colleges and universities across Canada do not pay property taxes," he said. "[The residences] serve a purpose in serving the university's academic plans. We want to see the taxes either reduced or eliminated so there are more opportunities for students."

Residence Students' Association president Allan Bailey is also supportive of the appeal. "It's pretty important because all the money would go back into the facilities," said Bailey. "The return would be a positive impact on student life."

More specifically, Bailey stressed the money could be used to upgrade the residence buildings that are in desperate need of renovations. He noted that in a maintenance assessment of the buildings conducted last year, facility conditions index scores were as high as 48 out of 100, where a score above 50 garners a recommendation to condemn the building. While Bailey blamed insufficient maintenance budgets for the buildings' poor conditions, Lynn stressed that none of the residence buildings have been deemed unsafe. He did, however, note that the low scores have prompted the university to review the buildings.

"The institution has made the decision that having residence spaces is a key part in recruiting students," said Lynn.

Bailey also noted plans for a complete renovation of Norquay, Brewster and Castle Halls during the summer are well underway, however Lynn stressed the three building projects have not yet been confirmed.

If the tax appeal is successful again this year, Students' Union vice-president external Julie Labonte would like to see the money re-invested in residence infrastructure.

"We need to manage the residence buildings that we have," she said. "We need to improve them, we need to renovate them and bring them up to standard, but we also need new ones."

In addition to the U of C, Labonte noted the University of Alberta and University of Lethbridge are also lobbying their municipal governments for a complete elimination of property taxes on residence buildings.

City of Calgary director of customer relations Amy Enfield explained that property tax bills have not yet been issued, however the property value assessments which are used to determine the tax amount have been. She also stressed that any increases in property tax are strictly based on market value assessments of property and are not a cash grab for the city.

Although the tax bill has not yet been received, Lynn explained tax-assessment experts are already preparing Residence Service's appeal in hopes of a further reduction from last year. The appeal process could take anywhere from four to six months.

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