County council backs TBM mayor's call to promote tax relief option

Grey County is going to make a more concentrated effort to work with lower-tier municipalities to communicate a tax relief program that is available to low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

At its meeting on Oct. 27, county council voted in favour of a resolution from The Blue Mountains Mayor Alar Soever to take steps to assist local municipalities with publicizing that tax relief is available during these high inflation times.

Soever brought the resolution forward after he surveyed all nine local municipalities about county bylaw 5112-21 - a bylaw to Provide for the Cancellation of Tax Increase for the Purpose of Relieving Financial Hardship.

The county passed the bylaw in May 2021 putting in place a process to provide tax relief. However, applications to the program must be made at the local level of government. Since the bylaw’s approval, there have been just four applications across the county for the relief program.

Soever said six of nine local municipalities did not respond to his questions about how to find the application forms for the program online.

“That was a bit concerning,” Soever said of the lack of response to his questions about the program. “It does point out the difficulties of a two-tier system.”

Soever said the relief the program could provide to low-income seniors and disabled homeowners across the county is significant.

“Maybe fifty or a hundred bucks isn’t much to a lot of people, but if you’re on GIS (Guaranteed Income Supplement) it’s a lot of money,” he said. “If we put (the program) in place, we should make sure it’s accessible to the people it’s designed to serve.”

Soever’s motion called on the county to fully advertise and communicate the availability of the program and to work with local municipalities to ensure the application forms are readily available for anybody interested in applying. Soever noted that with inflation rising and municipalities facing major budget pressures in 2023, having the relief program easily accessible is critical.

Members of county council were supportive of the initiative and thanked Soever for bringing the item to the council table.

“I had forgotten about this until Coun. Soever brought this up. I’d like to not lose sight of it,” said Chatsworth Mayor Scott Mackey. “It’s an important issue that needs to get communicated.”

Grey Highlands Deputy Mayor Aakash Desai said the resolution is timely with municipal budget season approaching.

“I am very happy Coun. Soever has brought this up as a reminder as we’re going into the next tax season,” he said.

Southgate deputy mayor Brian Milne asked for a slight amendment to the resolution to ask county staff to work with local municipalities to advertise and communicate about the program, rather than the county undertaking those efforts directly. His amendment was accepted.

“I share Coun. Soever’s concerns about making people aware that this program exists,” he said.

CAO Kim Wingrove said the county would circulate the resolution to the clerks of all municipalities in order for it to be dealt with directly by the new councils taking office in the coming weeks.

“It is a good item to make sure everybody is aware and you can have internal discussions, if those were required, at your own tables,” she said.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca