(© Can Stock Photo / jhan)

County Tax Break Program Could End

The City of Sarnia could save a few hundred thousand dollars a year by eliminating a municipal property tax rebate program.

“We currently budget around $250,000 a year in vacancy rebates,” says Director of Finance Lisa Armstrong. “The last three years, we’ve spent between $160,000 to $260,000 in rebates.”

Lambton County staff are recommending the vacancy rebate program be discontinued for any vacancy that has occurred after December 3, 2017.

Finance, Facilities and Court Services General Manager John Innes says it’s hoped to prevent “double-dipping.”

“We now have a situation where MPAC recognizes the fact that a commercial or industrial property, that involves tenants, may not always be fully occupied and therefore there should be an allowance to reflect the fact and the value should be reduced accordingly,” says Innes. “That means that with the vacancy program, a property owner could a) have reduced taxes based on the fact that the property is on average vacant for a percentage of the time, and then secondly can get an additional rebate on top of that.”

Successful property owners have received as much as a 35% tax rebate in the past.

The province gave municipalities the authority to decide whether or not they wanted to continue the program in 2017.

Lambton county council will consider the recommendation at budget deliberations March 7.