Council refers arrears recommendation for further info

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To help provide more fairness to all tax classes, Chatham-Kent councillors referred a recommendation concerning the forgiveness of late payment charges on arrears back to staff.

During Monday’s meeting, administration presented a report asking the charges – related to current year property tax arrears through July 31 – be waived for small businesses on a request basis if they could demonstrate a loss of operating income due to provincial health restrictions.

The original recommendation also suggested relief for properties in the commercial or industrial tax classes with an assessed values of $2 million or less.

Chatham Coun. Michael Bondy entered an amendment to add residential properties to that list for relief, but Wallaceburg Coun. Carmen McGregor believed it would be more prudent to seek further information from staff before council made a decision.

“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,” said McGregor, noting that businesses renting property should also be considered.

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“I just think it should go back (for) a clear recommendation. … The intent of it obviously is very positive and needed for our community.”

Earlier this month, the Doug Ford government issued a provincewide stay-at-home order, requiring everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes.

This limits non-essential retailers to curbside pickup, as well as restaurants to takeout or delivery. Items sold in big-box stores are now also restricted to essential items only

The original staff report recommended “immediate relief to address the recently imposed operating restrictions on negatively impacted small businesses.”

However, Bondy said residents should have some help as well, stressing the municipality wouldn’t be forgiving their taxes but simply the late fees.

“I have great faith in the people of Chatham-Kent,” he said. “Nobody wants to get behind on their taxes.

“People that can pay will.”

Gord Quinton, chief financial officer, said the referral back to staff was doable, but stressed the May 1 deadline was fast approaching.

Due to the time sensitivity, staff’s report will return to council this coming Monday, which was initially scheduled to just be a planning meeting.

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