City manager Tim Commisso
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Half a dozen communities in the region can now raise their large industrial tax rates, but Thunder Bay is keeping its options open.
Northern municipalities facing huge drops in mill property assessments have until Tuesday to raise their large industrial tax rates up to 15 per cent after Ontario's finance minister Charles Sousa granted them special permission last week.
Dryden voted to up Domtar's taxes in the town 15 per cent Dec. 5. That will help recover $472,000 of the $1 million reduction Domtar paid in 2013. The decision is on the agenda for Fort Frances Monday night.
But Thunder Bay city manager Tim Commisso said while that option has always been available to the city, the decision would hit all industry in Thunder Bay. Resolute Forest Products and the city are heading to the Assessment Review Board in January over the local mill's assessment. Resolute is asking for its property to be assessed around $25 million while the city wants it to stay at its current $72 million.
The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation puts the value at around $41 million. Commisso said the issue is a new model-based approach that sees MPAC putting values on mills based on production output.
"We fundamentally disagree with that," he said Monday afternoon. "Why should manufacturing plants get the benefit of an assessed value that's tied to their production capacity?"
"We don't belive that MPAC should be in a position to say how big that plant should be. They're not in the business of running pulp and paper mills, they're in the business of assessing properties."
All municipalities want economic development partly because of the industrial taxes generated. The model approach would hit that tax base at the expense of others, most notably the residential base Commisso said.
"The burden of the tax base is falling more onto residential (taxpayers)," he said.
There is also the possibility that the city could reach a settlement of some kind with Resolute but it remains up in the air until a decision is made through the ARB.
"Until we get through the hearing we really don't know where we stand," Commisso said.
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