SG chal­lenged over ‘sticker shock’

The Glengarry News - - News - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff

South Glen­garry’s fi­nance depart­ment is seek­ing a so­lu­tion for tax bill ‘sticker shock’ re­lated to what the town­ship refers to as “lo­cal im­prove­ment charges” – namely, main­te­nance and re­pairs to mu­nic­i­pal drains, as well as beaver dam re­moval – the cost of which is borne by prop­erty own­ers af­ter the work has been com­pleted.

“If your house is on a mu­nic­i­pal drain, and some­where down­stream there’s a beaver dam that has to be taken apart, it’s a mu­nic­i­pal re­spon­si­bil­ity (un­der the Drainage

Act) to re­move that dam to prevent a flooded river,” new­lyminted town­ship trea­surer and gen­eral man­ager of cor­po­rate ser­vices Lach­lan Mc­Don­ald told coun­cil at the most re­cent reg­u­lar meet­ing on Sept. 5.

“We do the work and then bill it out (to the prop­erty owner/s) the next year...We don’t send out (as­sess­ment) let­ters when the work is done (or be­fore).”

Mr. Mc­Don­ald was com­ment­ing on a re­cent let­ter from Wil­liamstown res­i­dent Ross Holden, sent to the town­ship and ad­dressed to Mayor Ian McLeod and coun­cil, in which Mr. Holden ex­pressed his dis­plea­sure with his third/fi­nal tax bill for 2017, re­ceived in Au­gust, be­cause of a retroac­tive charge he was as­sessed for beaver con­trol-re­lated work.

Mr. Holden had re­ceived no prior no­tice that he would be charged for the ser­vice.

“This bill had an ad­di­tional $1,086.39 un­der the head­ing of lo­cal im­prove­ment,” wrote Mr. Holden.

“Need­less to say I was sur­prised, as there was no lo­cal im­prove­ment work on my prop­erty. I do not con­sider the re­moval of beavers lo­cal im­prove­ment, but an­i­mal con­trol.”

Mr. Holden added that he con­tacted Mr. Mc­Don­ald to in­quire about the in­crease, and was in­formed that he was “re­spon­si­ble for any prob­lems oc­cur­ring to the creek (Wil­liamson Drain)” which tra­verses his prop­erty.

“This creek drains kilo­me­tres of prop­erty in South Glen­garry and there­fore should be a county re­spon­si­bil­ity,” stated Mr. Holden, who was fur­ther be­wil­dered that the added as­sess­ment charge was retroac­tively cu­mu­la­tive, pre­dat­ing his pur­chase of the prop­erty.

“I was told that the amount billed was be­cause of the re­moval of beavers go­ing back to the year 2003. I only moved here in 2006,” said Mr. Holden.

“Beavers were re­moved about five years ago, on my prop­erty, but I was never made aware that I would be taxed for this ser­vice.”

Mr. Mc­Don­ald – who pointed out that Mr. Holden’s bill was re­duced some­what af­ter their con­ver­sa­tion be­cause the pre-2006 charges “were not re­ally his bur­den” – ex­plained that the term ‘lo­cal im­prove­ment charge’ is syn­oy­mous with ‘mu­nic­i­pal drain charge,’ and that prop­erty own­ers ben­e­fit from im­prove­ments to the drains, and “there­fore, it is very lo­cal.”

As for as­sess­ing the im­prove­ment charges cu­mu­la­tively, out­go­ing trea­surer Mike Sam­son ex­plained that given the num­ber of files in­volv­ing mu­nic­i­pal drains in the town­ship – he es­ti­mated about 100 prop­er­ties were on the Wil­liamson Drain alone – it is not ad­min­is­tra­tively vi­able to as­sess them on an an­nual ba­sis.

“It’s time-con­sum­ing.. .You’d have to have a cou­ple more peo­ple in the (mu­nic­i­pal) of­fice to ad­dress that,” said Mr. Sam­son.

“What we’re (presently) do­ing is wait­ing a cou­ple of years to make it worth the trou­ble to as­sess it...I don’t sug­gest that there’s much more you could do...You could as­sess ev­ery cou­ple of years, if you wanted to.”

Mr. Sam­son in­di­cated that the is­sues sur­round­ing the as­sess­ment of the ‘lo­cal im­prove­ment’ charges don’t stem solely from town­ship pol­icy.

“Lawyers, when there’s a trans­ac­tion, a sale of prop­erty...very, very sel­dom ask the ques­tion, ‘Is there a mu- nic­i­pal drain on this prop­erty that should be con­sid­ered (for as­sess­ment)?’” he said. Mayor McLeod con­curred with Mr. Sam­son. “I think the obli­ga­tion is on the le­gal coun­sel for whomever the pur­chaser is to find out if there are any back taxes ow­ing,” he said.

While coun­cil agreed that le­gal over­sights could be a con­tribut­ing fac­tor, they also em­pathized with Mr. Holden.

Deputy-mayor Frank Prevost was par­tic­u­larly vo­cal about the town­ship’s pol­icy re­gard­ing as­sess­ment for drainage main­te­nance/beaver con­trol.

“It’s a lit­tle shock­ing at the end of the day get­ting a bill and you don’t know what the hell it’s for,” he said.

“If I’d bought this prop­erty two years ago, for in­stance, and you send me a bill from 2003, I’m go­ing to have a ma­jor prob­lem with that.” Coun. Bill McKen­zie was equally up­set. “From what I’m gather­ing here, we (the mu­nic­i­pal­ity) know where the mu­nic­i­pal drains are in this town­ship...We can go and see when a prop­erty is sold and the pur­chaser comes in to pay the taxes...and say, ‘Here’s our direc­tory of mu­nic­i­pal drains’,” said Coun. McKen­zie.

“That’s what com­put­ers are for, I gather. I don’t see the dif­fi­culty, frankly.”

How­ever, town­ship clerk Mar­i­lyn LeBrun ex­plained that there is no dig­i­tal list­ing of the town­ship’s mu­nic­i­pal drains.

“Ok, so maybe that’s a good place to start,” replied Coun. McKen­zie. “I don’t know. There’s gotta be a way.”

As dis­cus­sions on the mat­ter con­cluded, Mayor McLeod re­quested that Mr. Mc­Don­ald and the town­ship’s drainage su­per­in­ten­dent, Gary Mac­Don­ald, meet and come up with some sug­ges­tions for re­solv­ing the ‘lo­cal im­prove­ment’ charge dilemma, and that Mr. Mc­Don­ald in­cor­po­rate the re­sults of those talks into a staff re­port to be pre­sented to coun­cil at a later date.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.