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Mill appeal hearing expected next year

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A preliminary teleconference regarding an appeal to have the mill property reassessed was held last Wednesday, but a hearing before the provincial Assessment Review Board likely won’t happen until sometime next year.

Town treasurer Laurie Witherspoon said the teleconference was held to see where both parties—appellant AbitibiBowater (AbiBow) Canada Inc. and the Town of Fort Frances—are in terms of their respective cases.

While another preliminary conference will take place sometime in the near future, the actual hearing won’t happen until next year.

“Right at this point, I don’t know when the next hearing is but I really don’t anticipate to have this whole hearing until sometime in 2013,” noted Witherspoon, adding it won’t happen until both sides are ready.

As previously reported, AbitibiBowater (AbiBow) Canada Inc., now Resolute Forest Products, currently has an appeal before the Assessment Review Board for its mill property in Fort Frances.

The appeal covers the years 2009, 2010, and 2011, and could have very serious repercussions for the town and its taxpayers, with the company looking to have the assessment lowered from $28,260,000 to no more than $15,010,000.

If the mill appeal is 100 percent successful, the town would be looking at giving the company a refund of a little over $3 million ($2.2 million for 2009-11, plus $800,000 in 2012).

As well, in subsequent years, the town would see its tax revenues reduced by roughly $800,000 on an annual basis.

The town has hired Municipal Tax Equity Consultants Inc. and MTE Paralegal Corp. to represent its interests in the appeal proceedings.

The Assessment Review Board is a third-party tribunal run by the Attorney General's Office at arm's length to the Municipal Property Assessment Corp.

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