Keremeos residents share in the belief that businesses and services should not reopen until there is a better understanding of the state of COVID-19, according to Mayor Manfred Bauer. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review - File)

Keremeos mayor encouraged by level of COVID-19 compliance, says tax deferrals not on the table

Mayor Bauer says the village is in a better position than many other more densely populated areas

Keremeos residents share in the belief that businesses and services should not reopen until there is a better understanding of the state of COVID-19, according to Mayor Manfred Bauer.

Bauer says the village is in a better position than many other more densely populated areas.

He said overall, local residents are respecting guidelines and are watching out both for their neighbours and those not complying with the social gathering rules.

READ MORE: Thank you to Keremeos’s essential workers

“Overall, here in the country people are taking it with a little bit more patience and understanding, because of the very fact that there is enough space,” he said.

“I think that most people understand that what we’re doing is a good thing, and it needs to be done.

“Does anybody hope that it’s going to be over soon? Yes, absolutely. I’m sure that’s just human nature. We want to visit with our friends, we want to visit with our family in other places…of course we also want to go out and have a meal and drink lots of wine in the beer garden some place. That’s just human nature.”

While the village has received a few calls from individuals to report non-compliance, but Bauer said overall “I think we are doing very well.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Snowbirds to fly across country to salute Canadians trying to flatten the curve

The mayor said he would like to see a complete campfire ban to discourage people from huddling around at night.

The biggest concern the Village of Keremeos currently shares with Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson, Bauer explained, is unsupervised camping on Crown land.

“We’re trying to get a handle on how we can educate people, how we can enforce that and who will enforce it,” he said.

Town hall remains closed to the public but active in providing services.

“If the chief medical officer says okay, I think it’s okay to open chambers and municipal offices and what not again, then that’s what we’re going to do,” said Bauer.

“And until then, unlike Mr. Trump, we will not inject disinfectives, we will wait and see what the professionals have to say.”

Referencing the decisions of other municipal leaders in other parts of the South Okanagan to defer property tax deadlines to a later date, Bauer said Keremeos doesn’t have this luxury. Other municipalities have implemented these new deadlines in an effort to provide financial assistance over the summer.

“We are a very small town, with a very small budget, a skeleton budget, a skeleton crew,” said Bauer.

READ MORE: City of Penticton grants 60-day grace period on property taxes

READ MORE: Town of Oliver defers property tax due date

READ MORE: Princeton faces pandemic in solid financial shape

READ MORE: Summerland’s property tax deadline extended

The demographic in Keremeos, the mayor explained, is mostly made up of individuals on fixed income or pensioners. Revenue from businesses, he said, is about 16 per cent, and the rest is residential and grant money.

Bauer said post-dating tax due dates isn’t something he’s sure is necessary.

“It’s really just kicking the can ahead a couple of months. What happens in September? Then people have even larger bills.”

Most residents, he said, are paying on time.

“For us, it would really not make a big difference. We can’t. I don’t think we can afford that kind of thing,” he said.

“Don’t forget, whatever you do now, it’ll haunt you later. If you plunder your reserves to avoid tax increases, well, down the road you will have no money when there is an emergency and you need those reserves.”

Compared to other Okanagan towns, Keremeos’ revenue from municipal taxation is $800,000.

“One per cent is $8,000, that’s it. We’re tiny,” said Bauer. “And the rest is all different income.”

The mayor said he receives questions about why Princeton’s taxation is so much lower than Keremeos, which he says has to do with the size of his village’s boundary.

“We’re sitting on two square kilometres,” he said. “Princeton sits on 60 square kilometres, that’s 30 times more than we are…their ratio of taxation is 60 residential and 40 business. Ours is 80-20.”

It’s similar when comparing to Osoyoos and Oliver, he added.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Keremeos Library offers locals wide-range of online resources

@KeremeosNews
phil.mclachlan@pentictonwesternnews.com

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