Hikes un­der­line need for in­quiry

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - Shawn McRae, McRae Farms Ltd., Bainsville

Open Let­ter to South Glen­garry Cit­i­zens: Have you been watch­ing your mu­nic­i­pal tax bill? I have been, for al­most thirty years. I’m be­gin­ning a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery, and I’d like to in­vite you to join me, as I con­tinue to write these let­ters to The Glen­garry News, while in­ves­ti­gat­ing the causes of ex­po­nen­tial growth in tax­a­tion.

I own and op­er­ate a fam­ily farm in South Glen­garry, on the first (front) con­ces­sion. My great-grand­fa­ther bought Lot 15, Lan­caster Town­ship at a bank auc­tion in 1904, and moved south from his fam­ily’s farm on the “lit­tle tenth” (the first con­ces­sion of Lochiel). So, as farm busi­nesses go, we’ve been pay­ing our prop­erty taxes here for quite some time.

Mu­nic­i­pal tax­a­tion of our main farm (720 acres from 1990 through 2015 with no sig­nif­i­cant changes to drainage, land use, or build­ings) rose 226 per cent in 25 years. Our to­tal

farm op­er­at­ing ex­penses, from 1990 through 2015, rose 25 per cent in the same 25 years. This ex­pense cat­e­gory, from our an­nual cor­po­rate fi­nan­cial state­ments in­cludes cus­tom work, fer­til­izer, seed, pes­ti­cides, gaso­line, diesel, re­pair and main­te­nance, salaries and ben­e­fits, tools, hard­ware, and sup­plies. This cost in­crease in our busi­ness of grain crop pro­duc­tion could be con­sid­ered a reasonable proxy for the cost in­creases in the main­te­nance of ru­ral roads and in­fra­struc­ture.

A fi­nal data plot shows how taxes “could have” risen, us­ing 1998 as a base from which to gauge cost con­trol per­for­mance within the newly amal­ga­mated mu­nic­i­pal­ity. Re­mem­ber when Mike Har­ris said that amal­ga­ma­tion would stream­line govern­ment ser­vices and im­prove ef­fi­ciency?

Us­ing the Bank of Canada’s on­line in­fla­tion cal­cu­la­tor for that time pe­riod, our 1998 tax bill of $6,633 might have risen at a yearover-year rate of 1.94% to be $9,196. Ac­com­mo­dat­ing for in­ef­fi­cien­cies in govern­ment op­er­a­tions, I’ve also plot­ted a rate of 3 per cent, end­ing at $10,963.

A third plot shows the ac­tual tax rise rate of 5.125 per cent which ends at $15,516.

I think that a reasonable in­ter­pre­ta­tion of these trends would sug­gest that ru­ral pri­vate en­ter­prise can­not con­tinue to sup­port these rates of in­crease in mu­nic­i­pal tax­a­tion, and that a de­tailed in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the spend­ing habits of both the up­per tier and lower tier of our re­gional gov­ern­ments is re­quired.

Since one might as­sume that govern­ment is un­likely to an­a­lyze it­self for spend­thrift ten­den­cies, I’ve de­cided to per­form the in­ves­ti­ga­tion my­self.

My thanks to the staff and Coun­cil of South Glen­garry for their co­op­er­a­tion as this re­search con­tin­ues.

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