Updated: 10 Dec. 2020 09:41
Michelle Simmons, Deputy Speaker of the Senate (file photo)
It would be “almost suicidal” for the government to collect less property tax from the public after the financial blow it suffered as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Michelle Simmons, Deputy Speaker of the Senate, said rental price reductions since the pandemic meant that a revaluation of properties slated for this year would almost certainly mean lower taxes.
Therefore, she supported the Land Assessment and Taxation Law 2020 (Special Provisions and Postponement of the Preparation of the Draft Assessment List), which will postpone the assessment for five years.
Senators were also told that the property tax would not be increased next year.
Property tax is calculated on the annual rental value (ARV) of a property, which is generally revised every five years. The last ARV survey was conducted in 2015 and was due to be updated early next year. The bill extends the duration of the 2015 investigation until 2025.
Lindsay Simmons, Assistant Minister of Social Development, Seniors and Home Affairs, said: âA post-Covid-19 valuation date ensures that the next reassessment period reflects the impact of the pandemic on property values. “
Ms. Michelle Simmons said, âThe pandemic has had such a huge impact on our community in so many ways. One is that current rental values ââhave fallen dramatically. Current rental values ââare much lower than they would have been in 2015.
âIf these ARVs were calculated this year, the government would have to assess a lower tax rate and therefore everyone would jump for joy because they would probably pay less property tax.
âHowever, we need to take a more holistic view. We are talking about the same government that had to dig into its pockets to find help for families who had no means to support themselves. “
She added: âIt would be almost suicidal for the government to calculate a lower tax rate and collect less property tax from members of the public at this time. I believe the community as a whole will benefit because it means the deficits will not increase and the government can continue to support those who really, really need it. “
Ms Lindsay Simmons added: “We are blocking this in order to help the economy stay stable.”
Senators also passed the St George’s Club Act 2020. It grants a lease of the club to Hotelco Bermuda SGC for a period of up to 262 years. Hotelco, the company that is part of the group developing the nearby seaside resort of St Regis, is considering renovating the St George’s Club.
Owen Darrell, deputy minister of the Cabinet Office, Education and Public Works, assured senators during questions that there would be public access to the club’s golf course and beach. However, restrictions can be put in place on beach access for weddings or other special occasions, he said.
Mr Darrell added that 163 timeshare owners still remain at the club.
St Regis will start hiring next month and renovations to St George’s Club will begin on New Years.
The Healthcare Professionals (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2020 adding five additional regulatory bodies to the Bermuda Board of Health’s current mandate has also been passed.
Questions were raised by opposition Senator Robin Tucker as to whether there would be additional staff and resources provided to BHC to handle the additional requirements. Curtis Richardson, Deputy Minister of Health, Transport and National Security, said his questions would be answered during next week’s Senate session.
Devonshire Bay will be renamed Mary Prince Emancipation Park with the passage of the Bermuda National Parks Amendment Act 2020.
Opposition Senator Ben Smith said: “This is a starting point for us to look at other parks in Bermuda and use it as an opportunity to showcase our history and our heroes. “
The 2020 Law on Amendments to the Health Insurance (Miscellaneous) Act allowing a temporary extension of the deadline for paying premiums for the Health Insurance Scheme and FutureCare from 60 to 90 days has been passed, as has the 2020 Law amending the law on digital assets to support financial innovation.