Committee votes to rescue Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre from tax troubles

Toronto.com
By David NickelSeptember 5, 2019

Toronto could give the Crow’s Theatre on Carlaw Avenue more than $71,000 to help clear up an outstanding property tax bill that came about due to a misunderstanding about just how far back the small theatre’s tax exemption would go.

The city’s General Government and Licensing Committee voted to offer the theatre a grant that would cover a portion of the 2016 property taxes for the location at 345 and 347 Carlaw Avenue.

According to a city staff report, the theatre company in co-operation with Streetcar, their sponsor, purchased the two units in 2016 under the assumption that as a small theatre they would be exempt from paying property taxes.

However, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) ruled that the exemption only applied while the theatre was open, after January 2017. During the construction period in 2016, the exemption didn’t apply.

In total, the theatre company owes $71,143.62, and an additional $56,999.45 for a restaurant portion of the property which is not exempt.

The committee’s recommendation to pay the theatre’s portion of the property tax was conditional on the theatre paying the commercial portion of the property taxes — and paying those nonexempt taxes going forward.

Committee chair Paul Ainslie moved the motion to offer the grant on behalf of local councillor Paula Fletcher.

Ainslie said the grant was “a small amount of money in the scheme of things,” and it made sense for the city to help small theatres build their foundations.

“Well, I think that throughout this process they learned their lesson,” said Ainslie. “From the experience I’ve had with a lot of groups and theatre groups is they don’t have the best financial acumen. The priority is we’re going to put this production on, we’re going to support community theatre and arts and culture in the city — and sometimes finances isn’t a high priority.”

Toronto.com unsuccessfully attempted to contact Crow Theatre’s executive director Sherrie Johnson several times leading up to and following the Sept. 4 committee meeting where councillors recommended the one-time grant.