Town in bind over Bill 79

Ontario municipalities have until the end of the January to figure out just what–if any–adjustments have to be made to their tax billings due to the passage of Bill 79 earlier this month.
But they may not get the information to do that until well into next month.
Bill 79, the Fairness for Property Tax Payers Act, was passed and proclaimed Dec. 18. It contains a tax cap which states municipalities can only increase taxes (due to reassessment) on industrial, commercial, and multi-residential ratepayers by a maximum of 10 percent in 1998 and five percent in 1999 and 2000.
Fort Frances CAO Bill Naturkach said the only way to fully assess the implication of Bill 79 is by using a property tax assessment program–OPTA–which is supposed to be provided by the province.
The province hasn’t done that yet, Naturkach stressed.
“From what we understand, it may not be available to us until mid-January,” he said. “Whether or not the end of January is feasible is still questionable.”
Naturkach noted the OPTA computer program is key to the process since it contains how the 10:5:5 cap ratio will effect individual municipalities across the province.
“What we need to do is insert our own assessment information and our own tax rate information,” he explained. “Then it can identify the property within those parameters.
“It will show us which of our accounts we have to address,” he added. “Then we’ll make our report and recommendation to council and supposedly be able to meet the end of January deadline.”
The problem is that deadline cannot be extended much longer. Under Bill 79, the town cannot collect interim taxes for 1999 for commercial, industrial, or multi-residential properties until 1998 has been figured out.
Naturkach said while there aren’t many multi-residential properties in the town, industrial and commercial property taxes make up a huge chunk of the its annual revenue.
Which could cause some problems given the first two tax instalments for 1999 are due Feb. 28 and March 31.
“This only leaves us with residential and farmland, which is not the majority of our levy,” Naturkach said. “It’s possible [it could affect the 1999 budget] but we’re hopeful that it won’t.”
The Ministry for Municipal Affairs and Housing could not comment on when the OPTA program would be provided by the province as of press time today.