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Tax Policy Redux
The Tax Policy Review Committee, chaired by Gary Scandlan of Watson and Associates recommended that the majority of the rural discount be phased out over of 5-year period. That recommendation was accepted by council in a motion made by councillor, Max Kaiser, and passed 6-1 on August 22, 2016. The result was to increase overall rural taxes about 1.5% per year for five years while reducing urban taxes by the same amount but still leaving urban residents paying about 4% more than rural (for sidewalks, street lights and fire hydrants) after the phase-in is complete.
This policy has been implemented and the first two increments of the 5-year phase-in took effect in 2016 and 2017.
However, Max Kaiser’s motion, contained a rider:
…that we seek dialogue with the OPP and/or the Province to find a clear and final decision as to whether or not the “calls for service” for the OPP can be area-rated within a given municipality; and that we seek that decision within this term of Council.
The CAO is preparing a report which the Dec 19 agenda indicates will be coming forward in January. He has indicated that he had met with the OPP to discuss ways to measure the cost of police service in each area, sought input from AMO and had discussions with other municipalities. The CAO acknowledges that most interpretations of s.326 do not allow policing to be area-rated, at least where it is provided by the same police force. (s.326 allows area rating only for “special services”, defined as services that are provided in a different manner or different level in different parts of the municipality.) Gary Scandlan was of the opinion that area rating of police services here was not permitted by s.326 of the Municipal Act. The Town’s lawyer presented an opinion to council in secret session but council voted 5-2 not to release it.
This raises all of the nasty issues which were thought to have been disposed of by the Scandlan study. Who should pay to police the schools, courts, women’s shelters, social housing? Who pays for the cost of investigating an incident in Town involving a resident of Adolphustown? Which group is more law abiding? Why should the law abiding residents of one area pay more than the law abiding residents of the other area to deal with the social and drug problems caused by people who don’t pay taxes in either area? Why area-rate policing and not roads, winter maintenance and garbage pickup all of which cost far more to provide in the rural area? Commercial and multi-residential properties already pay 140% to 200% of the residential rate while farmers pay only 23% of residential rate. Is it fair to tack on a further surcharge in the urban area? And on and on.
We desperately need to put this issue behind us. Our council will never pull together as a team with this burr under the saddle.
1673 days after it was fenced off, Hotel Hollywood was flattened on October 10 and the rubble has been trucked to South Fred landfill. Tax arrears are $89,000 on Hotel Hollywood and $20,000 on Pie in the Sky. At least $49,450 was paid in legal costs. Demolition costs are at at least $54,700. Much can be learned from this episode. Let’s hope that council and staff will do a thorough postmortem.
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Hubert Hogle 532-3672
Dennis Mills 354-6375
Arthur Ronald 354-4291
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