Public Meeting – Vacant Property Tax Rebate

As reported last December, the county is looking at changing the tax system so that vacant stores do not get a rebate on their taxes.  A required part of that process is that public meetings must be held to allow communication to and from affected people.  The required meeting was held on Wednesday March 21 at the County building – only a few people turned up.   At a presentation, County treasurer Glenn Dees explained some of the details.  The change is now possible because legislation passed in early 2017 allowed municipalities to “opt-out” of the rebate program or make other changes.  Of those who requested a change in 2017, 21 of 25 eliminated them immediately of phased them out.  Another source of public input is an online survey now being held – see links below.

Glenn Dees - County Treasurer
Glenn Dees – County Treasurer

The amount of the rebate is 30% for Commercial properties (e.g. stores) and 35% for industrial properties (e.g. factories).  Because of this rebate totaling $269K in 2016, taxes for the average Cobourg taxpayer were 0.6% higher.

One of the reasons to stop the program (that is, to stop giving tax rebates) is that when a property is vacant, the store is re-assessed by MPAC to a lower valuation.  This means that taxes are reduced for two reasons; that is, the landlord is double-dipping. To make it worse, landlords often appeal the MPAC valuation to make it even lower.

One wouldn’t mind rebating taxes if the landlord were really trying to find a tenant but in Port Hope and Cobourg, 79% of landlords are chronic applicants for a rebate – they do so year after year.

Also, if applicants fail to provide a valid application – e.g. provide no valid proof of a vacancy – municipalities have no way to enforce their rejection of the application.  They are stuck with having to provide the rebate.  However, there is no indication as to whether this is an actual problem locally.

It seems that the county will likely proceed with elimination of rebates although not for vacant or excess land. It is expected that other counties will do the same thing. The next step is a staff recommendation to County Council and then approval by the Provincial Ministry of their decision. The result should be fewer vacant properties and slightly lower taxes for the rest of us.

Cobourg was represented at the meeting by Councilor Brian Darling and Treasurer Ian Davey.

Be sure to do the easy survey below.


Update 15 April 2018

Recommendation to be made at County Council meeting on April 18, 2018

Staff recommend opting out of the program effective for the 2018 tax year (applications received in 2018 for the tax year period of January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017 will be processed, no program offering for the 2018 tax year and beyond).

That is, since it is highly likely this will be approved, starting Jan 1 2019, no applications will be received or approved for tax rebates for non-tenanted property in the 2018 tax year.  (Note that on April 18, County Council DID pass the motion that made this change).

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Get used to Vacancies as long as Cobourg can continue to increase and support itself on the Residential Tax payers . How long will we put up with this type of taxation , we can’t
There is nothing unique down town and very little that I need so why go there ?
The vast majority of my neighbourhood is retired and seemingly buy their food locally but shop on line
– its safer , faster , no parking issues , and usually 20% cheaper , with a larger selection ,of what ever your looking for . I see the delivery trucks daily on my block but we all attest to the old adage shop local , but we boast about the online savings we get .


It is timely to understand where this rebate programme came from – Mike Harris part of his “Common Sense Revolution”. Obviously a sop to the free market.

Look carefully in Doug Ford’s pledge to reduce red tape, to slow this anti-rebate programme or repeal it if he gets in!


Geez, it’s 2018. Are we still blaming Mike Harris for everything?


Not everything but this is a holdover of his and all should be reminded.


Please help me. If I understand correctly, paying a tax based on the value of one’s property (Property Tax) is reasonable. Certainly you haven’t mentioned that it is unreasonable. The value of a commercial property is the rent that can be received from it. If it isn’t rented then that value is obviously reduced so property taxes should also be reduced. Where is my error? Please don’t say that slumlords won’t maintain their vacant property since we have property standards bylaws to deal with that issue.


It’s a win win situation for the landlord.. The landlord can ask a high rent rather than a reasonable one and if someone bites that’s fine and if no-one does then he gets the rebate. Removing the rebate will hopefully reduce rents and encourage more new businesses.
See the earlier answer on the property standards bylaw.


I missed the meeting, Like the other many snowbirds who live in Cobourg. The attendance would have been better had a later date been chosen.


Should we shut down for the six months of the year that snowbirds choose to leave our county?


As long as “Snowbirds” pay their taxes in Cobourg, they should have a say. They are less of a $ drain on the town when you really analyse it.

Wally Keeler

They are not around buying groceries, nor any other retail product/service. They are contributing nothing to Cobourg during the snow months, preferring to spend their money in a foreign country, not caring about the difficulties of downtown Cobourg merchants during winter, then complaining about tourists who allegedly, don’t spend any money here during the summer.


Buying groceries contributes very little to the local economy since most of the money goes to Mexico, Texas, South Africa or other places that grow things in our snow months. I’ve asked before: what do you buy downtown? I don’t fancy a tattoo or artificial nails or an expensive bra. The eateries are mediocre at best. As a retiree I don’t need much in the way of high priced clothing. The downtown liquor store is pathetic compared to the one in the mall. Winter or Summer there is nothing to purchase in the downtown which is why it is dying. Again, Wally, what do you buy there?

Wally Keeler

Buying groceries contributes very little to the local economy since most of the money goes to Mexico, Texas, South Africa or other places that grow things in our snow months.”

And all those employees at Dominion, No Frills and Walmart are from Mexico, Texas, South Africa and other places? All those employees and none live in Cobourg? All those employees and they don’t buy anything in Cobourg?

The eateries are mediocre at best.

You should move to a better place, where there are lots of high-priced high class restaurants, and the downtown looks like Yorkville.

I buy groceries, clothing, shoes, toys, services, magazines, books, convenience store stuff, etc. etc. No jewelry, appliances or automobiles.


I am surprised that you buy groceries downtown without a grocery store!


“They are contributing nothing to Cobourg during the snow months”
Well, taxes is the obvious answer. They are still paying for local utilities. Still paying for financial services (banks, investment advisors, etc.). Hiring someone to house-sit. Hire someone to snow plow.

Wally Keeler

Pittance. Part-time citizens.


How rude.


I’m piling on. Another example of a good intention going awry and being used for less than intended purposes. Further exacerbated by a lack of reasonable/timely/ objective oversight. Good on the 21 of 25 for getting this done quickly. Finally a ‘download’ from the province to the municipality that makes economic sense and to the benefit of the municipality.

Gail Rayment

Exactly, Bill – how were we told? Did you point it out, John? If so regrettably I missed it. Anyway I have completed the survey and encourage everyone to do so.


Great Its about time some of these landlords need a little motivation
to prepare and make ready some of these derelict and perpetually vacant properties
especially on King st .


We already have sufficient property standards bylaws to force them to fix things. The problem is that the bylaws are only enforced when people complain. If you don’t like the way things look file a complaint! That is one of the few useful things on Cobourg’s “award winning website”. To learn how to complain try this link.

Bill Thompson

How and when was the public made aware of the meeting on March 21st ?