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Resident rails against tax relief

Andrew Philips

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

Dave McKee, of the Hitch House, is pictured in this file photo.

POSTMEDIA NETWORK FILES Dave McKee, of the Hitch House, is pictured in this file photo.

An Oro-Medonte resident is taking issue with the township’s decision to grant some tax relief to a local businessman.

Paul Sanderson said township council is creating a dangerous precedent by reducing the amount of money paid by Dave McKee, who owns the Hitch House on Highway 11.

“Why wouldn’t every other resident in the township ask for relief?” Sanderson asked, noting tax reassessments occur on a regular basis.

McKee appeared before council Wednesday to ask for relief after he was hit with a property tax bill for an adjacent property he owns following a reassessment by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).

“I got a thing from the township that I suddenly have back taxes,” McKee said Thursday, referring to the supplementary tax bill he received in late 2015 after MPAC reviewed the property’s assessed value, which caused taxes to jump from about $4,500 to $11,000 annually, with three years of outstanding taxes due immediately.

“This came out of the blue. The township (was) obviously as accommodating as they could be.”

During his deputation, McKee initially asked council to forgive the additional taxes assessed for 2013, 2014 and 2015 totalling nearly $19,000 plus interest that had accrued on the subject property, for which he receives about $19,000 in rent annually.

“I am a fair person and have always been pro-township,” McKee wrote council, noting he has always paid his taxes on time. “When the township has asked for assistance in something, I or one of my companies has always stepped up. This is not really about the money. It is about what is right.”

McKee said he couldn’t ask his tenant, Barrie Build and Design (Guildcrest Homes), for the back taxes because it “could not afford to pay it” after suffering the loss of its president to brain cancer the year he received the reassessment.

“I don’t want to lose the tenant,” he said, noting the township is also at risk should the tenant leave, since the tax rate would drop to a lower premium accorded to vacant land.

“If the tenant moves, the taxes drop to almost nothing,” McKee said.

In the end, council voted unanimously to forgive the interest due on the amount owing, but not the principal.

“We forgave the accrued interest,” Coun. Scott Macpherson said, adding the interest fell in the $3,000 range. “We did not forgive him the retroactive amount.”

Mayor Harry Hughes said this isn’t the first time the township has received a request for tax relief.

“(Staff) looks at each request on a case-by-case basis,” Hughes said, noting McKee received the huge increase without any prior notice.

“Council said this is a unique case. It’s not fair to get a bill for $20,000 and be expected to pay that immediately. He’s not contesting the 2016 taxes at all.”

But council’s decision didn’t sit well with Sanderson.

“Where’s the fairness?” he asked. “Why should he get preferential treatment? If you’re going to do it for one person, you do it for everybody.” 

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