Final tax bills to be delayed

Fort Frances property owners won’t see their second tax bill until later this summer after town council agreed to delay the final billing date two months to Aug. 31.
CAO Bill Naturkach said with the assessment roll not expected from the province until the end of this month, there was no way the town would be able to meet its original June 30 deadline.
He noted much has to be done once the roll was in, including changing the computer system and drawing up new bills. And with the town having to issue tax bills 21 days before payment is due, the deadline had to be pushed back.
“Obviously, that will have an impact,” Naturkach said at Monday’s regular council meeting, noting it could leave the town cash-strapped and mean a loss of interest on the revenue.
Earlier estimates by the Administration and Finance executive committee showed the delay would carry a $70,000 price tag, he added.
Mayor Glenn Witherspoon noted Northern Development and Mines minister Chris Hodgson assured delegates at the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association meeting earlier this month that the province would release some of the Community Reinvestment Fund earlier than first expected to help municipalities cover their expenses.
But so far, district clerks said they haven’t received any official date on when that would be other than it was coming “soon.”
Rob Savage, press secretary for Hodgson, said the fund would be allocated in quarterly payments, with the province gearing to forward payments for the first two quarters.
“That’s expected to go out within the next few weeks,” he said yesterday, but couldn’t give an exact date.
Meanwhile, Fort Frances isn’t the only district municipality looking at pushing back its tax billing date. Alberton clerk Faye Flatt and Emo clerk Brenda Cooke both were recommending at council meetings this week that the bills there be delayed.
“Normally, I would be doing the bills here this week,” agreed Pat Giles, clerk for both Lake of the Woods and Dawson townships, adding that probably would be pushed back about three or four weeks.
That would give him enough time after the assessment rolls came in to print up the bills and get them out to property owners, he added.
Unlike other townships, Giles didn’t issue interim bills, adding he was hoping to have the budget passed in June.
But not every township is altering dates. Both La Vallee and Chapple figured if the assessment roll came in at the end of the month as scheduled, they would be able to get the final bills out on time.
“If we get further delays, we may still have to [delay things],” La Vallee clerk Laurie Witherspoon said, noting the payment deadline there was Aug. 14.
“We’re supposed to have the roll by the end of the month,” echoed Doris Dyson, noting if that came on time, Chapple could stick to its traditional July 31 date.
In related news, only Fort Frances has set an interim levy for 1998, which is 4.75 percent higher than last year. But that could change, depending on what happens with the assessment roll.
The others say they are waiting until they get the roll from the province before setting their ’98 budgets.