Peterborough City Council has decided to do away with the Vacancy Rebate Program, starting with the 2017 calendar year. While this initially caused some concern, the Peterborough Chamber is encouraged by and supportive of the decision to redeploy the money set aside for the program to the Tax Ratio Reduction Program.
In response to a call for feedback on the City’s consideration of changes to the program, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce Board of
Directors provided staff with a similar recommendation.
What is/was the Vacancy Rebate Program?
The City of Peterborough sets aside $300,000 each year under the current Vacancy Rebate Program. The program, which has been in place since 1998 and is mandated by the provincial government, provides tax relief through a rebate of property taxes to owners of vacant commercial and industrial buildings. Currently, the rebates sit at 30% for commercial buildings and 35% for industrial, should the property meet certain requirements, including length of vacancy.
Why was the City looking to change the program?
Recently, the province allowed municipalities to start discussions and make changes to the program.
Several options were on the table:
1. Eliminate the rebate program in its entirety, beginning in 2018 for the 2017 tax year.
2. Phase out the program over a 3 year period:
4. Revise the current program.
What was the Peterborough Chamber's response to the call for feedback?
After reaching out to our membership of more than 900 businesses, discussions at the Policy Committee and Board of Directors level, the business community believed there were other options than those above to encourage continued business investment in Peterborough and revitalization of current building stock. As the Vacancy Rebate Program applied to ratepayers in commercial and industrial tax class across Peterborough, it was felt the
redeployment of any funds should be city-wide as well.
Our members also wanted City staff to know that use of the program could be very helpful in certain cases and not a reason for building owners to keep space vacant.
What was the recommendation from the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce?
The Tax Ratio Reduction Program, which resulted from a coordinated lobbying effort by the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, Kawartha Manufacturer’s Association and Peterborough & the Kawarthas Association of Realtors, is currently set to meet its target of 1.5 times the residential tax rate by 2021. Our understanding was that applying the Vacancy Rebate Fund to accelerate the program will allow the commercial rate to realize that ratio a year ahead of schedule in 2020.
An added bonus to redeploying the money in this way is that it will provide city-wide relief to businesses of all sizes and sectors and in turn create an even more business-friendly environment for economic growth in Peterborough.
What is the final approved Council Resolution?