Ottawa

Tax dispute between Chelsea, NCC could cost residents

A tax dispute between the National Capital Commission and the western Quebec municipality of Chelsea could end up costing local taxpayers, the town's mayor says.

Municipality says NCC owes $242K for Gatineau Park property

'They want the tourists in the park. I don’t feel I should have to pay more taxes,' Chelsea resident Deb Fleming said. (Stu Mills/CBC)

A tax dispute between the National Capital Commission and the western Quebec municipality of Chelsea could end up costing local taxpayers, the town's mayor says. 

Caryl Green says the NCC's annual tax bill for Gatineau Park, which occupies a significant chunk of the sprawling municipality, totals nearly $1.1 million.

By June the NCC had paid $842,000, marking its last instalment "final payment."

But according to Green, the commission still owes $242,000. 

"We don't understand, and we're asking for an explanation of why they've changed their mind on that payment," Green said.

It's a problem every municipality faces, making sure residents pay their property taxes. But in Chelsea that problem's a little bigger because the dispute is with the National Capital Commission. 5:20

Assessors refused access

Though it's Chelsea that sends out the tax bills, it's the Municipal Regional County (MRC) that assesses property value within its member municipalities, including Chelsea.

Green said the NCC has been refusing MRC tax assessors access to buildings and property within Gatineau Park.

"We need to have a respectful process that we don't have to fight for the right to assess and evaluate the property," she said.

Like with any property owner, private or public, there are occasions when assessments are questioned.- Jean Wolff, NCC

NCC spokesperson Jean Wolff confirmed the discrepancy stems from a disagreement over property valuations, some of which rose by close to 20 per cent.

"Like with any property owner, private or public, there are occasions when assessments are questioned," Wolff wrote in an email.

He said the NCC is "committed to resolving this matter" and will work with the municipality to "identify a reasonable outcome."

Budget pressure

But time is tight: the municipal council is preparing to adopt its budget on Dec. 18, and if the dispute isn't resolved, local taxpayers might have to pick up the slack.

A similar $242,000 budget gap next year will mean an additional two per cent on residential property tax bills, Greene said.

That angers some residents, including Deb Fleming, who's lived in the Kingsmere area for 41 years.

"I think that is terrible to think that we have to pay for the NCC, who has all their damned tourists up in our area. And there's a lot of them, trust me. You can't even get on the goddamned road half the time."

Deb Fleming, who lives in the Kingsmere area, says with Gatineau Park tourists wearing out municipal roads, the NCC should pay its share of the municipal tax bill. 0:27

She called on Chelsea to fight for taxpayers, and not to buckle. 

Green said she's got a commitment of legal support from Union of Municipalities of Quebec, and will take the matter to court if it comes to that.