Farm group pushes counties for tax relief
Ontario’s largest farm group wants a London-area county to reduce the share of the tax burden its farmers pay, arguing the soaring value of farmland is creating an unfair tax hit for producers.
And the pitch by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) isn’t being made to Middlesex County alone but to counties across Southwestern Ontario’s farm belt.
The OFA is appealing to Middlesex to lower the tax ratio applied to farmland to 0.223 per cent from its current 0.25 per cent.
“Some farmers are seeing annual increases between 12 and 15 per cent in their property tax bills . . . and that’s because the assessment of farmland, relative to residential (properties), is way out of whack,” said Ben Le Fort, a senior farm policy analyst with the OFA, which will speak to council next week.
According to Farm Credit Canada, the value of farmland in Ontario has gone up each year since 2008.
In 2017, farmland value went up in Southwestern Ontario by 4.2 per cent, with some acres of land going for as much as $18,400.
OFA will also lobb for similar reductions to the ratio in Elgin, Norfolk and Huron counties.
The group has convinced Oxford, Lambton and Brant counties and Chatham-Kent to lower their ratios. Perth County said no.
Le Fort said the average increase in taxable assessment for farmlands in Middlesex has gone up 10 times more than the average increase for residential properties.
This has led to taxes from farm properties covering a growing portion of the county’s tax revenue.
So basically our request is to maintain the 2018 level of taxes and not set a new one in 2019,” Le Fort said.
And though this is an issue affecting farming-heavy counties, Le Fort said the situation in Middlesex County is more severe than in most jurisdictions.
One county politician, however, doesn’t think that lowering the ratio is that simple.
Strathroy-Caradoc Mayor Joanne Vanderheyden, who sits in Middlesex County council, said changing the ratio would mean other property owners would feel the burden of the decision.
“I will listen with an open mind, but my fear always is that when you change the tax ratio for one category it has to be eaten up by someone else,” she said. “If we shifted it to someone, where do we shift it? That to me is a big problem.”
She also pointed out that while some farmers may be hurting from the increase in property value, those who are selling their land are benefiting from that same jump.
“The market is setting these prices, and it isn’t good for the farmers who don’t want to sell because their assessments are going up because their value is going up,” she said. “But it is good for the farmers that are selling because they are getting crazy dollars for their properties.” [email protected]media.com twitter.com/JuhaatLFPress