After over two years of serving the community Furnish the Future, a local charity, is set to cease its much needed operations after a lengthy tax battle with Cambridge City Hall has left owner, Sandra Hill, angered and perplexed at the lack of support the city is willing to offer her charity.
Furnish the Future takes unneeded household items from people around the community, either looking to do a little spring cleaning or in some cases, people transitioning from a bigger home into a smaller one. They take those unwanted, good-condition items and donate them back to families in need in the Waterloo Region for free.
“Furnish the Future does not expect anything from the government, region or the City of Cambridge, we are self-sufficient, and provide a service that countless people have used in the region,” said Hill.
Hill’s troubles all began in 2010, before Furnish the Future was even up and running. After learning that businesses could apply for a reduction in property tax if their building is vacant, (a service that city hall does not publicize on its web site) Hill applied to the city for a reduction due to her warehouse being unoccupied and up for rent for some time. She had the application submitted, stamped and a copy recorded in her files.
After a few months still no response from the city, Furnish the Future was born and a very small portion of the warehouse was used to house some of the furniture for the charity. This is now 2011 and Hill enquires about her 2010 application which she is told was never received by the city. She then submits a 2011 application with a copy of 2010’s application by courier and Furnish the Future is in full operation.
Still no response from the City of Cambridge, until Hill called Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) Kitchener office, which oversees all property tax assessments in Ontario to complain. Once MPAC made the City of Cambridge aware of the issue the city official showed up to view the property to assess the property for the rebate.
Approximately one month later the City of Cambridge had made a decision that Furnish the Future was operating as a business and did not qualify under the rebate to reduce property taxes due to the fact that Furnish the Future was not registered as a charity with Revenue Canada and the warehouse was not empty “wall to wall.”
“Furnish the Future is being forced by the City of Cambridge to close down since they expect us to pay huge property taxes to help families in need for free,” said Hill.
According to Hill, registering the charity with Revenue Canada would be very costly and could take up to two years. She runs Furnish the Future completely free of government funding, something no other charity in the region can claim.
When the public donates items for free to other local charities they are expecting their donations to be given to the families in need for free, but this is not the case. In the region currently, programs such as St. Vincent de Paul, that are registered charities, only give a portion back through coupons since this is how they receive funds from the government.
“I need the public input to stop the City of Cambridge from closing down Furnish the Future. Call the City of Cambridge Property Tax Division until the phone rings off the wall. 519-623-1340. Call your local MP, MPP, Mayor and Councillor and let them know how you feel.” Hill said.
Furnish the Future is asking the public to write letters to the region and City of Cambridge so that their mailbox is full of your letters and please send a copy to Sandra Hill for her petition rights to appeal the City of Cambridge. City of Cambridge mailing address is 50 Dickson Street, Cambridge Ont., N1R 8S1. Regional Office mailing address is 150 Frederick St., P.O box 9051 Station C, Kitchener N2G 4J3.
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt