Victoria University could be liable to pay millions of dollars in property taxes.
A staff report issued from the City of Toronto Solicitor and Treasurer estimates that Victoria University has avoided $12,213,171 in property taxes on its 131 Bloor Street West property since 2009 and $2,715,409 on its other properties since 2013 due to an oversight in the Victoria University Act.
Victoria University leases out the land on which several commercial buildings are located, including: 131 Bloor Street West, an office building with retail space, to Revenue Properties Company Limited; 151 Bloor Street West, another office building with retail space, to GE Canada Real Estate Equity Holding Company; and 110 Charles Street West, a condominium building, to McKinsey & Company. The institution also owns the land to the condominium at 8 St Thomas Street, which is under construction by Kingsett Capital.
Revenue Properties and GE Canada have appealed the value assessments, which were completed by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). The city is waiting on a settlement proposal between Revenue Properties and MPAC; they have put the assessment appeal of 151 Bloor Street West on hold.
Most universities are exempt from property taxes, only if the properties are occupied by the university and used for educational purposes. Such provisions exist in the OCAD University Act, the Ryerson University Act, and the York University Act, but not for the University of Toronto Act or the Victoria University Act.
Victoria University and the University of Toronto are not mandated to pay property taxes on leased properties; the University of Toronto does so on a voluntary basis.
“The financial unfairness to the City and to the other public universities in Toronto from Victoria University’s broad tax exemption is stark and should be fixed,” read a portion of the report.
The City Solicitor and Treasurer advised City Council to request the provincial government to amend the Victoria College Act to be the same property tax legislation as other public Ontario universities.
After an amendment to the recommendations by Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam during the June 7 City Council meeting, City Council voted to request a meeting between Victoria University representatives and the City Treasurer before making a decision.
Wong-Tam, who represents the ward in which Victoria University is located, told The Varsity that Victoria University president William Robins came to her and requested a deferral.
“They had just found out about the item on the agenda and they needed to have enough time to consult with the professional advisors to have a full understanding of the impact of the content of the report,” she said. “I said that would be fine. It’s not an unreasonable request.”
The City Treasurer is expected to report back on the results of the meeting to the Government Management Committee’s November 14 meeting.
Jennifer Little, Marketing and Communications Manager at Victoria University declined The Varsity’s request for comment.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Victoria University leased out number of buildings. In fact, they lease out the land on which these buildings are located. The Varsity regrets the error.