Discussions on farm tax ratio reach impasse

Prince Edward Federation of Agriculture president John Thompson addresses councillors (Chad Ibbotson/Gazette file photo)

Councillors can’t agree on acceptable solution



Councillors couldn’t agree on a solution as local farmers again requested a reduction in the farm tax ratio during last Thursday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Prince Edward Federation of Agriculture president John Thompson once more requested a reduction in the ratio from the current 25 per cent of the residential rate to 20 per cent for 2018, 2019, and 2020, the three remaining years on the current assessment cycle.

“The farm residence would remain taxed at the full residential rate as always,” said Thompson. “This would have the effect of maintaining the 2017 farmland tax amounts for 2018 followed by increases of around 20 per cent for the next two years.”

The farming community had previously asked for tax relief in December 2016 and again in November 2017 as many were met with 2016 Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) assessments that saw local farmland values jump by an average of 112 per cent over the four-year period from 2016-2020.

Thompson said there would be a negligible impact on residential property owners if the recommended reduction were approved by council.

“By failing to reduce the tax ratio, council is shifting a major tax load onto farmers who will see their farm taxes more than double over four years while saving the individual residential tax payer very little,” he said.

The revenue generated from farm taxes in 2017 increased by around $141,000, Thompson said, raising the farm tax share of municipal expenses from 1.57 per cent to 1.93 per cent, a dollar increase of about 28 per cent.

“The effect of this only lowered the residential share from 90.2 per cent to 90.1 per cent of revenue, rather inconsequential,” he said.

The request earned the support of the Prince Edward County Chamber of Commerce with president Gil Leclerc voicing the chamber’s support during the meeting. He said the difference would be an additional $39 on the 10,000 residential households in the county where if it were shared only among farmers, it would be an increase of about $1,400.

Opinions around the Shire Hall horseshoe again varied.

Councillor Treat Hull argued councillors have repeatedly said how important agriculture is to the community, but council’s track record doesn’t show much in the way of support for local farmers. He said he was in favour of reducing the ratio to 20 per cent.

“We talk about this all the time when we talk about (residential) taxes, what’s the impact going to be on people who are less well off,” he said. “…We owe it to farmers to bring the same perspective to the farm issue.”

Councillor Lenny Epstein said he hears often that expenses are forcing people out of the county and that makes the decision that much more difficult.

“There are people who are getting squeezed out of the affordability because of all these rising costs and they’re not able to live in the county,” he said. “…It’s a challenge for me to shift, because it is a shift, to some of these vulnerable residents additional costs.”

The discussion came as the committee was set to discuss a farm tax ratio analysis from staff that recommended the ratio remain at 25 per cent of the residential tax ratio. A motion to do just that failed. Several subsequent motions, involving a variety of single- and multi-year proposals and ratios, also failed. Ultimately, the committee elected to simply receive the report.

A special committee-of-the-whole meeting to receive and consider comments from the public on the farm tax ratio analysis report has been scheduled for Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Prince Edward Community Centre.