Late tax fee forgiveness may expand to all properties

·2 min read

Municipal staff is recommending that Chatham-Kent waive late payment charges on all property classes for 2021 property tax arrears, after council moved to send a report back to staff that previously included only business.

Councillors said they wanted to provide more fairness to all tax classes.

On April 7, the province declared a third provincial emergency, resulting in another lockdown, as a result of rapid COVID-19 transmission having further impact on businesses.

As a result, during the April 12 municipal council meeting, staff brought forward a recommendation that the municipality waive late payment charges for current year tax arrears through July 31. The first draft recommended that late fee forgiveness be on a request basis for businesses that proved a loss income from the provincially imposed COVID-19 restrictions. The properties that said businesses operated out of would have been in the commercial or industrial classes and assessed to be valued at less than $2 million. Chatham Coun. Michael Bondy then amended the motion to include relief for residential properties paying late taxes. “It's the small business people that go home and have these expenses. This is where the relief is needed and necessary,” he said. “Providing some relief in small business is great, but I think we also have to apply that same relief to that person that goes home and opens up their mail and has a residential tax bill.” According to municipal staff, if taxes were deferred for all residents, it would lose $100,000 a month. Wallaceburg Coun. Carmen McGregor noted that business owners who rent were excluded from the motion and moved to defer back to staff for a clearer recommendation. “I’m just looking for a better arrangement that will suit all of our citizens, businesses, etc. in Chatham-Kent, as opposed to picking and choosing here when we're missing some big pockets,” she said. The report was then referred back to staff, with direction to provide more options. Last year, the municipality provided temporary relief to property owners by amending the second instalment of the 2020 interim tax levy and waiving late payment charges on current year tax arrears from April 1 to July 10, 2020. “Despite the deferral of the tax due date, as of May 1 which was the original due date for the second interim instalment, 80.5 per cent of taxes were still paid by property owners. It is expected that a similar trend would occur based on this recommended deferral and therefore not have a significant effect on cash flows,” reads the new report to council. The new report is to be discussed at tonight's council meeting.

Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice