Hikes underline need for inquiry
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.