Other municipalities have industrial tax rates or deals for heavy industry. This is something that Halifax has done for decades (shipyards, airport, NS Power, Heritage Gas). It has for the last while been done through partnership with the Province.
From what Gloria McCluskey says when the municipalities did their own assessment she recalls knocking 50% off the Dartmouth Marine slips value for exactly the same reasons. Municipalities lost the ability to do this in 1996 when PVSC came into the picture, which is why the province had to do the deal for the refinery directly. We now have an amendment to the Charter that grants HRM the right to create tax agreements with industrial “single-purpose entities”. Here is an article about that change. http://thechronicleherald.ca/metro/1246363-hrm-charter-change-may-benefit-industry
The issue as I understand it is that market value does not work the same way for heavy industrial as it does for normal commercial. You spend $300 million on a specialized industrial manufacturing facility with a single purpose, the $300 million does not reflect the resale value. Assessment value is based on a willing buyer and a willing seller. Heavy industry routinely makes significant capital investments in building a plant, but because of the unique use of that investment there must be allowance for ‘external obsolescence’ when assessing the taxes due in any given taxation year. Basically, if the ship deal falls apart, the resale value of the Ultra Hall could be scrap metal on the building and salvage value for the cranes and gantries and whatnot.
I have always supported having large heavy industrial agreements. Hopefully we do MORE deals like this triggered by MORE harbour based industrial activity driving MORE jobs and investment in manufacturing capability. If GM or Bombardier or Pratt and Whitney want to open a large scale manufacturing plant here, we would do the same thing. To me it is about having a policy in place for assessing and negotiating a decent industrial tax deal. Irving, the fact that they are billionaires or that people perhaps understandably for some just don’t seem to like them, that is immaterial.
The other key piece is that Irving appeared to be right, and that the assessment would have been brought down in a court challenge based on the legislation and case law as it stands. The municipality could have “made a statement” and fought them but our best legal advice was we would likely lose because of these issues: external obsolescence, single-purpose entities, and unique use.
Here are the key points from the staff report (link here: http://halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/150526ca11112.pdf):
A taxation agreement would eliminate future assessment appeals and associated proceedings between ISI (Irving) and HRM. (my note also used to have a deal with the refinery.) HRM has taxation agreements with other unique properties such as Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA), Nova Scotia Power and Heritage Gas.
• A proposed term of 25 years with two 5 year renewals, at ISIs option, for a potential term of 35 years
• A fixed component of $569,000, plus an annual escalation of 1%
• An additional tax equivalent to S1,000 per FTE over a base employment level of 1,000 FTE, capped at an employment level of 3,000 FTE
ISI has filed appeals in respect of the valuation of the shipbuilding properties for 2014-2015, which could see the assessments reduced to account for ‘external obsolescence”, and if successful would produce a significant adjustment. ISI paid property tax for 2014-2015 based on the present property valuations, but the quantum of this payment is under appeal.
EDIT: Here is a link to the proposed commercial tax options motion that Councillor Outhit and I brought forward at the end of the budget for this year. If adopted, this would provide relief for small business.