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.
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.
- Online survey – Open until March 30, 2018
- Municipal Tax Refunds – 15 Dec 2017
- Vacant Property Taxes to be Reviewed – 30 July 2017
- Tax Incentive for Vacant Stores – 28 March 2015
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).