Province 'committed' to casino tax issue

By Kris Dube / News Editor
April 24, 2014

NIAGARA FALLS - Ontario's Ministry of Finance says it is working with officials in Niagara to address concerns over the 2013 MPAC assessment of the Fallsview Casino.

Earlier this week, Niagara Falls mayor Jim Diodati and Niagara Region chair Gary Burroughs held a press conference to express their governments' frustration with the gaming facility's value being set at $278 million, a figure municipal staff says should be closer to $450 million.

This assessment is expected to pose a combined $5.9 million shortfall for the city and the region.

Niagara Falls will receive $21 million this fiscal year for hosting two casinos in the city and its council is now faced with either increasing taxes or dipping into this funding to make up some of the difference.

Ministry spokesperson Susie Heath told Bullet News the Region of Niagara is one of the biggest benefactors of provincial uploads in Ontario, receiving $60 million annually, a figure that will continue to increase.

Before it was determined the City of Niagara Falls would be in receipt of $21 million from the OLG, the municipality previously received an annual amount of $6 million.

As part of the province-wide reassessment for the 2013 tax year, MPAC established updated values for the Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara.  The OLG, the City of Niagara Falls  and Niagara Region have appealed MPAC’s assessment to the Assessment Review Board.

“The province is committed to working with OLG, the City and Region to address the issues at hand.  We have facilitated meetings between MPAC and the region to help the two parties come to an agreement on assessment methodology and to avoid conflicts going forward,” said Heath.

The ministry says it will continue to facilitate these conversations and suggests Niagara officials ask for the process to be sped up.

“We have also encouraged Niagara to ask for an expedited appeal, since it's a long-standing issue and represents a significant portion of the city's tax base. We understand that the city is looking into it but have not taken any action thus far,” said Heath.

Considering an appeal process has been ongoing for the last nine years, Diodati says it's difficult to understand how the province could say his local government hasn't taken any action on expediting the process.

He also pointed out that no response has been provided to letters sent by Region chair Gary Burroughs asking for a resolution on this issue that all involved parties can agree on.

"It's a given we'd like to expedite it," Diodati told Bullet News on Thursday.

If the province needs more from Niagara officials to move forward, Diodati said now is the time for a plan to be laid out.

"Just tell us where and when and we'll be there," he added.