Fort Frances CAO Bill Naturkach was still waiting for his phone to ring Tuesday afternoon, eager to hear how the provincial government was proceeding, if at all, on Bill 79—what he called the “bill of chaos” last week.
Also known as the Fairness for Property Taxpayers Act, Naturkach said Bill 79 would force municipalities across Ontario to redo their 1998 tax levies—all by the end of the year.
“Which means we have to revamp our tax policies, revamp our computer programming of taxation, re-issue our ’98 tax bills, and explain it to the public before the year’s end,” he remarked.
“Which is impossible.”
The Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers (of which Naturkach currently is president), the Association of Tax Collectors, the Association of Municipal Finance Officers, and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario have joined forces in protest against Bill 79.
In fact, all four groups have reps at Queen’s Park trying to stop the Harris government from passing the bill.
Bill 79’s main problem is a tax ratio cap which says municipalities can only increase taxes (due to reassessment) on industrial, commercial, and multi-residential ratepayers by a maximum of 10 percent for 1998, and five percent for 1999 and 2000.
Anything over those numbers gets funnelled back to the rest of tax system—namely the general residential ratepayers.
Naturkach said the government has developed a system to help municipalities assess and recognize these “10-5-5” properties but, at the same time, hasn’t made it available to anyone.
And it still wouldn’t help meet the year-end deadline to re-issue tax bills, he noted.
“We’re talking a period of several weeks [to do this],” Naturkach said. “Even if we have one property in each category, we have to redo the entire category for one property.”
Naturkach said the four associations have put forward a solution which allows municipalities to deal with “10-5-5” properties on an individual basis so as not to upset the entire province.
Meanwhile, Bill 79 also could delay the town’s collection of the first instalment of the 1999 tax levy, which is traditionally at the end of March.
“In raising the 1999 levy, Bill 79 will not allow that until we clean up 1998,” Naturkach said.
“Bill 79 is unworkable, unnecessary, confusing, and expensive in light of other reasonable alternatives,” he argued.