If Sault steelmaker doesn't pay its tax bill, city fears big tax bump or layoffs
Published Thursday, April 20, 2017 2:28PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 20, 2017 5:31PM EDT
The city of Sault Ste. Marie is back in court, fighting for millions of dollars in back taxes owed by Essar Steel Algoma.
It's been years since the steel maker paid property taxes to the city and staff warn that come June, the total owing will near $30 million.
The city’s mayor said the figure is unacceptable.
“There are a lot of people in Sault Ste. Marie right now who are having challenges, and they're paying their taxes, and so the notion that Essar shouldn't pay any taxes I think is completely unacceptable,” said Christian Provenzano, Sault mayor.
More than a year ago, the courts ruled Essar didn't have to pay taxes while going through restructuring.
Since then, steel prices have rebounded, the Trudeau government has implemented remedies for steel dumping and Essar's ore supply is stable.
The city said without the missing tax revenues from Essar, or its new owner, there could be significant tax increases for homeowners or layoffs of municipal workers.
“We're very hopeful we're going to have a positive outcome in terms of getting our taxes paid,” said Al Horseman, Sault Ste. Marie CAO.
“But in the absence of funding, those are really our only options available to the city. We're a municipal service. That's what we provide are municipal services.”
The city said Essar's back taxes make up one quarter of the yearly tax base in the Sault. The mayor said it is time for Essar to do its part as a member of the community.
“I could appreciate if Essar was saying ‘look lets adjust our taxes' or 'we shouldn't pay as much taxes as you think we should pay.’ We can have an intelligent conversation about that. We can, that's civil. But to say we're not paying any taxes, it's a completely unreasonable position and I think it's a derogation of their social responsibility."
Following the court proceedings, city council will make a decision on how to move forward in June.