Federal tax shortfall marked by delays

Federal properties represent about 40 per cent of Esquimalt's property tax base.

Esquimalt’s appeal of the federal government’s decision to pay fewer taxes for CFB Esquimalt properties in the township last year is being hampered by delays.

The appeal is for $564,765. The township was dealt the first of a series of blows last year when it learned the Ministry of Public Works and Government Services would pay $314,582 less than it paid in 2009.

The municipality was hit with a second round of bad news in October when the government held back $116,608 from a second tax payment.

Adding fuel to the fire, the ministry said it also overpaid its payment in lieu of taxes to the township last summer and asked Esquimalt to return $51,000.

In December, the township responded by asking that a dispute advisory panel review the difference, and dug in for a long wait.

While a review typically happens six months to a year after the request is made, the the process has been delayed “mainly due to the current number of outstanding requests received by the (review) panel prior to the township’s request,” said the Ministry of Public Works and Government Services in a statement.

The process also slowed after several members of the advisory panel and the chairperson were replaced last year. Doug Rundell of North Saanich is heading the panel.

The lines of communication between the township and Rundell were recently opened, although when a review will begin has not been finalized.

“It’s going to go slowly through the system,” said Karen Blakely, Esquimalt’s director of financial services.

“It’s first going through the paperwork and then deciding what to do, so hopefully in the next couple of months we’ll have a clearer picture of what’s going on, because it’s the first time … we’ve been through (a review), as well.”

At the time the appeal was initiated, Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said “we are the largest community across Canada that has a real dependency on (federal payment in lieu of taxes), the second most dependent but the largest, and therefore we are the most vulnerable to PILT concerns.”

Federal properties represent about 40 per cent of the township’s property tax base.