Southgate offers help for low-income seniors facing hikes in property tax

·2 min read

Southgate will accept applications from low-income seniors and those on ODSP for up to $500 in relief against increases in their property taxes.

Grey County reviewed its program and found it outdated and lacking in real help for homeowners on a fixed income. Staff recommended changes to the program.

But along the way, the province stepped in and instead put lower-tier municipalities in charge.

So the decision came to Southgate of how the township would offer the relief, some form of which is required by Ontario law.

Council adopted the measures presented by John Kurian, Deputy Treasurer, based on a brief from a municipal tax equity consultant.

Southgate collects taxes not only for itself, but also for Grey County and the boards of education as designated by the property-owner.

The same measures then flow through to the school board and upper-tier in proportion to their share of the taxes collected.

NO MINIMUM

In the old program, people’s taxes needed to rise $500 in a year to qualify, which rarely happened. Southgate has removed the minimum, as Grey County voted to in March.

And after giving relief in a deferral of the increase, the county would put a lien on people’s homes – a big disincentive to apply. The amount was repaid on sale of the property.

The ineffectiveness of the earlier program was revealed during the county discussion, when the treasurer said that he was not personally aware of any properties where the deferral was granted.

During the staff review of the policy, a group of lower-tier treasurers said providing straightforward relief with a cap was better than giving a deferral because they judged that the administrative burden (and therefore cost through staff time) outweighed the return.

HOW TO APPLY

Anyone who thinks they may qualify can request an application from the township. The form is available on the Southgate website under Tax Department, by clicking on Tax Rebates and Relief Programs.

To qualify, you must be the registered property owner, and qualify for GIS for seniors, or ODSP or OW.

Proof is not required to apply, but will be needed upon approval, and there are fines for any fraudulent attempts.

The program deadline is Dec. 31 of the year in which taxes are due. That means you could apply now for 2021, but not for 2020.

M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald

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