Tax Rebate For Vacant Properties Could Be Eliminated

A debate over tax rebates for vacant commercial properties is underway among Essex County municipalities.

The program was implemented during tougher financial times but many say, with a rebounding economy, it's no longer necessary.

In 1998 the Municipal Act dictated every municipality have a program that provides tax rebates to offset lost revenue for vacant commercial and industrial properties.

In November 2016, Bill 70, or the Building Ontario Up for Everyone Act, gave municipalities more input on how they might choose to handle tax rebates.

Director of Financial Services for the Town of Amherstburg, Justin Rousseau says the same properties are looking for rebates year after year for a variety of reasons. "Whether that be that it's not in a desirable business location, whether that be the owner isn't trying to market it. Those things are outside of the scope of the municipality. It is a trend we're seeing in the tax department, it seems to be recurring individuals."

The town of Essex recently voted to take a look at eliminating the program.

Rousseau says financial departments throughout Essex County have agreed to gather more information to bring before county council at a later date. "Tax collectors and treasurers have met and come up with basically the idea of holding an open house to engage the business community, to engage the public to see the appetite for a few different options. A phased in phased out, the elimination of, or keeping the status quo."

Findings will be released some time later this year and there's no word yet on when the open house will be held.

Rousseau says a final decision on whether to eliminate the rebate won't be made until 2018.