Cornwall tax rebate program to be phased out by 2020

The Brookdale Centre shopping plaza, seen here on May 26, 2017, received $108,248 for 2016 through the city's vacancy rebate program. It was the single biggest commercial-industrial recipient on the roll of tax write-offs under the VRP. City council will decide on Monday whether to phase out the program over the next four years. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The city’s tax and finance departments are recommending a tax vacancy rebate program (VRP) be phased out for commercial and industrial ratepayers.

The move follows a public review process after the Ontario government gave municipalities the power to control the future of the VRP.

Cornwall gave back nearly $443,892 in taxes it collected in 2016, either because buildings were vacant or partially vacant over 90 consecutive days. To be eligible, property owners had to apply for the rebate.

The rebate is 30 per cent of yearly taxes collected for commercial owners and 35 per cent for industrial property owners.

In this Friday, May 26, 2017 photo, a letter starts to fall of the sign at the vacant Sensient Flavours building at 540 Wallrich Avenue in Cornwall, Ont. The factory closed in March 2015. The owners, Sensient Flavours Canada Ltd., received a tax rebate of $26,557 in 2016 through the tax vacancy rebate program. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Under the proposal to be debated at Monday night’s council meeting, both classes would be reduced to a 25 per cent rebate this year (2017), 20 per cent in 2018, 10 per cent in 2019 and eliminated in 2020.

There is also refinements proposed to the eligibility criteria during the phase out years.

Even if council approves the move, it still has to get a stamp of approval from the Ontario Minister of Finance.

During a community engagement feedback exercise in May, four people showed up for an open house and during a three week online survey, 22 people filled out the questionnaire, a city report states.

Property owners, mostly in the commercial sector, argue there would be economic hardship that would affect profitability, which could lead to closure or passing on increases to tenants.

Monday night’s council meeting at 360 Pitt Street starts at 7 p.m.