Residential taxpayers shouldn’t pay for farmers

Like most people, I respect the work that other people do – including the work of farmers. In fact, I told them so publicly at the committee of the whole meeting, held recently at the Community Centre. I told them that I do respect their work, but I also clearly stated that they had a nerve asking residential taxpayers, like me and many others, to pay their taxes for them. If for no other reason – I have already been hit by MPAC and increased municipal taxes!

The background to this is not complicated…. MPAC has increased the value of farmland significantly, resulting in higher municipal taxes for farmers. According to both the local and provincial OFA organizations, County farmers can’t afford the tax increase. Since the 1970s farmers pay only 25 per cent of taxes on the land they farm. Some large tax based municipalities have rolled this back to 20 per cent – this is what our local farmers want too. The problem is, that they want this five-per-cent dollar difference to be paid for by the residential taxpayers of the county.

Let’s be clear: The county is not a large tax based municipality. According to Statistics Canada, our population has been on the decline for a number of years. Right now our population stands at just over 24,000, with maybe 12,000 taxpayers – this is not a large tax base by any standard. Ninety per cent of county taxpayers are residential property owners, of which 63 per cent are seniors on fixed incomes. The OFA has conveniently ignored these basic facts. However, our council certainly knows these numbers and must support the broader community in this matter. Clearly the residential taxpayers are carrying the load in this municipality – and now the farmers want us to pay a share of their taxes too!

My opposition to the OFA request was solidified after attending the meeting on Feb. 22. for the following reasons….

A. At no time did the OFA make their case for asking the residential taxpayers of the county to pay their share of a reduced tax. That would be difficult considering their case is one of increased wealth and not hardship. Their request lacks substance and logic.

B. What is very significant, after being asked by our council, both the local and provincial OFA representatives revealed that no assessment appeals have been made to the available MPAC appeal process. What!?

C. The obvious reason the OFA has ignored the appeal process is that they believe that our local council will be easier to convince – and to heck with their residential neighbours who will have to pay for them!

D. At no time was it acknowledged by any OFA representative or local farmers, that years ago, many of the county’s residential taxpayers experienced similar huge assessment increases by MPAC – and have been paying increased taxes ever since. This leaves me with the question – “Are our farmers that much out of touch with the majority of this community, or do they just not care?”

As a closing thought: I have never in my life heard of one set of taxpayers asking their council to transfer a portion of their taxes onto the backs of another group of taxpayers. There is absolutely no prove that our local farmers will be harmed any greater by MPAC than what residential property owners have already experienced – and have been paying many years for.

Residential taxpayers should call their councillor to share their thoughts, before council makes its decision on March 13.

Dennis Fox