City councillors help defeat proposed farm ratio tax increase

·4 min read

Two Chatham Ward 6 councillors changed their minds and voted against raising the farm tax ratio from .22 percent to .23 at Chatham-Kent Council’s April 24 meeting.

Conor Allin and Michael Bondy were among the nine councillors who voted in favour of Ward 1 West Kent councillor Lauren Anderson’s motion at the April 3 meeting that asked administration to bring a report to the April 24 meeting with recommendations for raising the farm tax ratio to .23 percent.

But with Allin and Bondy changing sides, the motion was defeated 10-7 at the April 24 meeting.

Bondy admitted it was due to listening to the deputations from four agricultural representatives earlier in the night that swayed his vote.

“Frankly, coming into this, I was going to support this (motion), but after listening to the talk about the challenges farmers are facing and listening tonight, I won’t support this,” Bondy said. “Not to say I wouldn’t (support it) in future, but maybe now is not the right time.

The farm tax ratio was dropped from .25 percent to .22 in 2012 to give farmers some relief when the agricultural industry was struggling, with the intent to eventually bring it back to the .25 percent level once conditions improved.

Administration’s stand has been maintaining current tax ratios until the province announces the next Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) rates, which are expected to come in 2024 at the earliest.

The farm tax ratio has remained unchanged since MPAC’s last assessment was released in 2016.

Council turned down motions to increase the farm tax ratio on three previous occasions, including last year. The previous council voted to deny any proposed farm tax ratio raises, and increases would only be considered again once the next MPAC was announced.

“Personally, I think we had it right with the last term of council,” said Steve Pinsonneault, Ward 3 East Kent Councillor. “We made it so that it couldn’t be brought forward again until the property assessment does come in.”

“However, all rules change when a new council comes in,” he stated, referring to Anderson’s motion as she is a first-term councillor who was not a part of the council last spring.

East Kent Councillor John Wright said farmers are no different than councillors when it comes to dealing with rising costs.

“We have an increase. We increase it to the taxpayers,” he said. “When the farmer has an increase, he’s going to pass it on to the consumer.”

Wright said residents might save a few tax dollars by raising the farm ratio, which would lessen the residential and industrial tax burden.

“But they’re going to pay more on the other side when prices are raised at the grocery store and farmer’s markets,” he said.

Brad Snobelen, Kent Federation of Agriculture president, said in his deputation that farmland values have risen at a much higher rate than residential, commercial and industrial property in Chatham-Kent over the last two MPAC assessment cycles.

“As a result, farmers have gone from paying 5.6 percent of the property tax levy in 2012 to 11.6 percent in 2021,” Snobelen said. “During the same time period, the tax burden for residential, commercial and industrial properties have gone down.”

Snobelen said the KFA strongly suggested that council defers increasing the tax ratio until the new MPAC data is released.

“To make the decision on changing farm tax ratio without using current MPAC data would mean council intends to make decisions with a blindfold on,” Snoblen said.

Anderson said in her motion that she has and always will support agriculture regarding infrastructure or cutting trees to allow for more farmland.

“But when it comes to this tax ratio, there is no longer a reason for it to be at .22 percent. It needs to get back up to .23,” she said.

The other rural councillors disagreed as Pinsonneault and Wright were joined by South Kent’s Trevor Thompson, Anthony Ceccacci and Ryan Doyle, North Kent’s Jamie McGrail and Rhonda Jubenville, all voting against raising the farm tax ratio.

The ‘nay’ votes by Chatham councillors Amy Finn – who also didn’t support the motion on April 3 – and the swaying of Allin and Bondy led the motion to be defeated 10-7.

Three other Chatham councillors – Brock McGregor, Marjorie Crew, and Alysson Storey – along with Ward 5 Wallaceburg’s Carmen McGregor and Aaron Hall, Mayor Darrin Canniff and Anderson, all stayed with their vote in favour of the motion.

Council then voted unanimously to accept the 2023 Tax Policy.

Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News