Cornwall suing MPAC

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The City of Cornwall is taking the Ontario Municipal Property Assessment Corporation to court.

The city announced today (Aug. 1) that it has served a statement of claim in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against MPAC. The claim was filed July 11.

The corporation alleges it collected taxes based on “inaccurate assessments” prepared by MPAC for three distribution centers.

The City has paid a $392,543 refund to Shoppers through a settlement and will pay a “substantial refund” to Walmart. The City also alleges it overpaid for MPAC services – at least $20,000 for “unjust enrichment” plus an amount to be determined before trial.

That “substantial refund” would be $4.13 million, if the terms were similar to the Shoppers settlement.

The City is seeking damages of the amount of taxes refunded and the money paid to MPAC for its services. There is also a claim for legal costs.

“We did claim the cost of the proceeding plus all applicable taxes and any such further relief as the court may seem just,” CFO Tracey Bailey told Cornwall Newswatch.

None of the statements of claim have been proven in court.

The City of Cornwall had been working through a proceeding with the Assessment Review Board with MPAC on Walmart’s two distribution centers in Cornwall (one is the former Eleven Points Logistics Target DC). As of early this year, both sides had still be working through the disclosure phase of proceedings, where each side shares their case with the other.

The City is mandated to collect property taxes based on MPAC’s calculations. But if the property owner appeals the MPAC assessment and the appeal is successful, the City has to pay back those taxes collected – sometimes years later.

The City pays about $450,000 a year for the assessment corporation’s services.

According to the City, the three distribution centers accounted for over 10 per cent of the entire municipal tax base between 2013 and 2016, when the city collected almost $24 million in taxes.

The City of Cornwall is being represented by Gowling WLG LLP.

In an emailed statement to Cornwall Newswatch, Cathy Ranieri Sweenie, Municipal Property Assessment Corporation’s director of communications services, said it would not be appropriate for MPAC to comment at this time since the matter is before the courts.

“PAC takes its responsibility to provide assessments seriously and we continue to work closely with stakeholders throughout the assessment process,” Sweenie wrote.