Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mill tax appeal worries district

Some district municipal leaders are concerned about the possible reassessment of the mill property in Fort Frances heading into 2013.
With the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board’s cost apportionment schedule based on weighted assessment, including payments in lieu, using municipal tax ratios for municipalities, and weighted average tax ratios for the unincorporated areas, there is concern some of the smaller townships will see their payments increase.

“DSSAB cost is going to be a concern for us in the coming years, seeing Fort Frances lose a large portion of their assessment,” noted Chapple Reeve Peter Van Heyst.
“We’re going to pay a bigger share if Fort Frances pays a smaller one,” echoed La Vallee Reeve Ross Donaldson.
“So it definitely will affect us.”
The impact of the possible reassessment has the full attention of Fort Frances, as well as the district.
A hearing before the provincial Assessment Review Board may take place this spring, at which time there will be a better idea whether there’s going to be any success to the mill’s appeal or if there’s going to be a negotiation with the company.
Depending on what the numbers look like, this may include the Town of Fort Frances doing a thorough review of what it does and how it pays for it.
As previously reported, the mill’s owner currently has an appeal before the provincial Assessment Review Board for its property in Fort Frances.
The company is 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 for 2012).
If the appeal is 50 percent successful, the refund would be $1.525 million; at 25 percent, it would be $762,720.
As well, in subsequent years, the town would see tax revenues reduced by roughly $800,000 on an annual basis.
Fort Frances Mayor Roy Avis noted depending on the decision of the assessment review board, the loss of tax revenue could affect services within the town.
The 239 layoffs by Resolute Forest Products in November, due to the indefinite idling of the kraft mill and #5 paper machine, also was a blow to the district and is weighing heavily on the minds of municipal leaders.
“Everybody is concerned,” said Alberton Reeve Mike Hammond. “We don’t know what the impact is going to be on our municipality.
“We’ll have to wait and see like everybody else.”
“We have to see how the mill is going to affect us,” added Reeve Donaldson. “We’ve talked about that a lot, but in reality was does it mean?
“It’s not closing right down, so that’s a little better news in some respects.”
Reeve Donaldson also noted a number of La Vallee residents work at the mill and residents who work at a lot of other businesses, who could be impacted by the mill idling.
Still, many of the municipal leaders are hopeful the mining industry will continue on a positive pace in 2013.
“We hope Rainy River Resources will come up with a definite plan to open up the gold project in Chapple,” Reeve Van Heyst remarked.
“And that they can pass all the environmental hurdles that they need to comply with.”
“You shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket,” Reeve Donaldson admitted. “But that’s our biggest chance at some real growth [in the municipality] right now.”
Meanwhile, most of the municipal leaders said 2012 was a good year for their respective townships.
“We had some challenges but also some successes,” Reeve Donaldson stressed, noting La Vallee has nearly completed its official plan and has started into some policy review.
And with one councillor having resigned recently, Reeve Donaldson noted council will be discussing how to fill the position at its January meeting.
“There were a few sticks in the mud but I think we can work those out,” said Reeve Van Heyst, though not elaborating further.
He noted the municipality will have a balanced budget for 2012 and will be working on the 2013 one.
Reeve Van Heyst also said Chapple’s official plan and zoning bylaw will be open for review in the coming year.
“We hope the ratepayers will have their input on it,” he remarked, noting copies are available online or at the municipal office.
Reeve Van Heyst also said a goal of Chapple’s in the years ahead is to network with First Nations for a better understanding of each other’s needs and welfare of the Rainy River District.
“2012 was good. No major work done but we maintained what we have,” echoed Reeve Mike Hammond.
“And 2013 doesn’t look much different.”
While there may be some uncertainties in the year ahead, municipal leaders are hopeful 2013 will be a good year for the district.
And they all wished their residents a “Happy New Year.”

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