MPAC pledges to help Thunder Bay with reassessment problem
Thunder Bay has lost millions in tax revenue due to devalued industrial properties
Officials with Ontario's Municipal Property Assessment Corporation met with mayor Keith Hobbs and City of Thunder Bay staff at city hall on Wednesday.
The meeting followed a string of reduced assessments of industrial properties that have cost the city millions in tax revenue.
Hobbs said city officials shared concerns with MPAC about the transparency of its process — and what the city feels was a lack of consultation on files such as grain elevator reassessment.
That erased more than half a million dollars from city coffers.
The mayor said he also expressed concerns about how companies can use what he called functional obsolescence to reduce their assessments.
"They may have 80,000 square feet [of] building, and they only need 60, so they're assessed on the 60," he said. "We want to just get some rhyme or reason to the way these buildings and industries are being assessed and hopefully get some changes there."
Hobbs said MPAC chair Dan Matheson was sympathetic.
"We're going to meet further and we're going to hopefully address the regulations and meet with the Minister of Finance hopefully – and if not his staff – and go from there. So we've been promised cooperation with the MPAC board," Hobbs said.
Assessment criteria evolving through appeals
At a news conference after the meeting with city officials, Matheson said the assessment corporation is already improving transparency by sharing the methodologies for its 2016 assessment across the province – so any ideas or concerns can be addressed in advance.
However, he said MPAC does not fully control the value of reassessments based on functional obsolescence.
"Through appeal to the Assessment Review Board and them making a decision or it being appealed to Superior Court on to a court of appeal, every time one of those new decisions is made around functional obsolescence or what's allowed to be counted towards an assessment or not counted leads us to new case law," he said.
Matheson said the corporation will help municipalities cope with the uncertainty by creating a new web tool within the next six months that will allow city staff to track appeals on-line. That way, he said, they can follow trends in assessment decisions and forecast how they might apply to local properties.
He also said MPAC will help the city raise concerns with the review board about its process and timelines.
Matheson said members of the corporation have offered to meet city officials again at the Ontario Good Roads Conference later this month.
He said he anticipates MPAC and the city of Thunder Bay will be ready to make submissions to the Minister of Finance in three to four months.