“Significant increases in property taxes are one of the biggest issues facing small business within the GTA “ claims John Kiru, Executive Director of Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA).
Riverside, Business Improvement (BIA), along historic Queen St E between the DVP bridge and just past Degrassi, has the highest percentage increase in property values compared to all other BIAs, with an increase in assessed property values of 118% from 2008, to 2012.
Commercial Properties are assessed at the value estimated to be highest and best use of the property. For example, if there is a parking lot right beside a brand new 4 story condominium with retail on the street level, these two properties would be subject to the same assessed property value. Pity the property owner who has had his business running as a sole proprietorship for the past 20 years, and would like to continue to service his loyal customers but is a neighbour to a new development.
Dale Sonier, President/Owner of macFAB Fabrics and macFAB Home is concerned that tax increases will drive out small independent businesses that help create neighbourhoods in Toronto. Dale fears that tax increases are “Killing Toronto’s small businesses!” Dale has seen this happen along Queen St West, when 3 years ago, he saw rents tripling because of increase in property taxes, fueled by increases in property value assessments. Dale was not prepared to pass these increases along to his customers, so, he moved across to the East End and is now a considerable presence on Queen St East, operating macFAB with 5 store-fronts in Riverside.
The Riverside BIA is the second oldest BIA in Toronto, and Rosemary Little Jeffares (Rosie), Chair of the Riverside BIA Marketing Committee and Owner/Operator of Quince Flowers has seen the ups and downs of Riverside. For the past several years, Rosie has been at the forefront of a “Riverside Revival”, where the Queen &
Broadview hub has transformed from a rough area to an up and coming neighbourhood. Through leadership from the BIA, Riverside has benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment in
the BIA’s infrastructure including public art installations, façade improvements to a substantial number of businesses, capital investments in lighting, tree pits, public parks and more. Rosie exclaims “it’s ironic that a large part of this investment in Riverside has been through Government programs and grants, and, now, with increases in assessed property values the Government is shooting our Community in the foot. Riverside has worked hard to develop a safe, attractive desirable neighbourhood. Those businesses who invested in this, are now finding themselves penalized by an increase property tax assessments“
To help small business owners, Riverside BIA has encouraged all their property owners to go on to the MPAC website and file an appeal. TABIA has offered their help, and will work with MPAC to identify a single contact for Riverside. But, that is not enough, there are two major changes that MPAC must address if they want to support small businesses. The first is their notion of assessing property at “highest and best use”. Small Businesses advocate a system where a more reasonable assessment is taken when it is actually realized and that is “current use at time of sale”.
The other area of inequality in taxes is the rate which GTA Businesses pay the Business Education Tax (BET). According to John Kiru from TABIA, businesses within the GTA pay a higher rate for the BET those businesses outside of the GTA. There is no reason for this inequity. Why is the BET tax rate not the same everywhere? TABIA is leading this issue for GTA Businesses, and Riverside is looking forward to their successes.
Ultimately the government will have to decide if they want to have Toronto continue to be a city of neighbourhoods, or of they are looking for development and chains to be on every street corner.