Halifax will be getting a big cheque from Ottawa, but no one knows yet just how big that cheque will be.
The municipal and federal governments have been arguing for 22 years over what the Halifax Citadel is worth how much it should pay in taxes.
At one point the feds said the landmark was worth $10.
But Canada’s highest court sent the dispute to a federal advisory panel who ruled it is worth $41.2 million.
Now it is up to Public Works Minister Judy Foote to decide what Ottawa will pay.
HRM spokesman Brendan Elliott says the city would get $1.6 million for the year of 2013 alone if the panel’s pricetag sticks.
Talks are well underway, he said Monday, but the final amount owed has yet to be settled.
Ottawa’s latest public position is that the national historic site is worth $37.6 million less than the price the panel set.
If one year of back taxes at the panel’s price is $1.6 million, what is two decades worth?
The math gets complicated.
“Keeping in mind we are going back to 1997 to determine value,” said Elliott.
If one year’s tax bill ended up at $1.6 million though, the total stretching back nearly two decades could amount to $20 million.
Elliott said the city cannot comment on the total number as tax rates change every year.
He says talks between the city’s acting CAO John Traves and federal bureaucrats are progressing well as both sides seem to be reaching common ground.
“We’re optimistic a resolution will be found in the near future.”
That would then be brought to regional council for a vote.
But regardless of whether the city agrees with the decision or not, Elliott says the matter will likely not go back to court.
“The panels recommendations can’t be ignored because the supreme court put an awful lot of weight into the dispute advisory panel,” he said.
The Supreme Court ruled, in June 2012, that Ottawa cannot set payments based on its own property value assessments.
The federal government does not pay property taxes directly but an amount in lieu.
Original publish date: Jun. 27, 2016