Tax­ing is­sue

Coun­cil­lor says town mis­in­formed about va­cant land

The Compass - - NEWS - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON editor@CB­N­com­pass.ca

A Har­bour Grace town coun­cil­lor feels an of­fi­cial from the Depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs mis­in­formed the town while ad­vis­ing it on tax­a­tion for va­cant land.

Start­ing in 2016, res­i­dents with va­cant land will no longer get taxed based on the prop­erty’s as­sessed value and the mil rate. In­stead, a min­i­mum tax amount of $350 will ap­ply to each par­cel, no mat­ter the size. In the case of ad­join­ing va­cant prop­er­ties, the owner can look to merge those prop­er­ties to re­duce the amount of tax owed to the town.

At last Wed­nes­day’s pub­lic meet­ing, Coun. Kathy Tet­ford brought up con­cerns about ad­vice the town re­ceived from mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs be­fore it agreed to adopt the min­i­mum tax pol­icy.

“I voted against this type of tax­a­tion think­ing it was an un­fair tax, even though I was of the un­der­stand­ing we were leg­is­lated un­der the (Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties) Act to do so,” she told fel­low coun­cil mem­bers.

The hope was that with this pol­icy, peo­ple with smaller parcels of land faced with pay­ing more un­der the new tax struc­ture would look to sell land to oth­ers in­ter­ested in de­vel­op­ing it.

Ac­cord­ing to Tet­ford, an of­fi­cial from mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs told the town that leg­is­la­tion re­quired the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to change the pol­icy. She’s since found that’s not the case and be­lieves the town should give the is­sue an­other look.

Con­firms it’s dis­cre­tionary

When con­tacted by The Com­pass last week, a mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs spokesman con­firmed choos­ing to go with a min­i­mum tax in­stead of an amount based on the mil rate and as­sessed land value is dis­cre­tionary. A court case in 2011 granted mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties the author­ity to set up a min­i­mum real prop­erty tax for va­cant land.

Tet­ford be­lieves the new tax struc­ture for va­cant land un­fairly ben­e­fits those with acres of land owned while leav­ing peo­ple with small plots fork­ing over more money to the town. She said peo­ple liv­ing on a fixed in­come will be neg­a­tively af­fected.

Coun­cil­lors Pat Haire and Hay­ward Blake spoke out against re­vis­it­ing the is­sue.

“It was done in good faith, it was done with the in­for­ma­tion we all be­lieved was ac­cu­rate, and I’m not in favour of chang­ing it,” said Blake.

Coun. Tony McCarthy, who voted in favour of the change in pol­icy, ad­mit­ted he did so un­der the im­pres­sion the change had to be made. He said it would be help­ful for mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs to clear up the is­sue.

“I voted against this type of tax­a­tion think­ing it was an un­fair tax, even though I was of the un­der­stand­ing we were leg­is­lated un­der the (Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties) Act to do so.” Coun. Kathy Tet­ford

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

Coun. Kathy Tet­ford told her col­leagues last week they should take an­other look at the de­ci­sion to change how va­cant land is taxed in Har­bour Grace.

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