With a stroke of a pen, the province could put money in the pockets of municipalities and it wouldn’t cost them a dime.
That’s according to Brooke-Alvinston Mayor Don McGugan who recently spoke with the province’s standing committee on finance during its pre budget consultations.
McGugan says the province could put thousands of dollars back in the municipalities’ pockets simply by increasing the tax assessment on wind turbines.
Brooke-Alvinston hosts four wind turbines. Each is assessed for taxes at $42,000 – which is vastly under valued. “That’s a $6 million tower,” he says. “If the province wants to help their big industrial friends, cut that assessment to $3 million. Brooke-Alvinston will then get $42,000 per tower.”
Right now the municipality receives only $1397.50 of taxes from each turbine.
“These are multi-nationals and the tax rate for turbines in Ontario is the lowest of any area of North America,” says McGugan.
Raising the rate to even half the value of the turbines would mean an extra $168,000 says McGugan – coincidentally about the same amount the province has cut from Brooke-Alvinston’s funding this year.
The mayor says the Liberal MPPs on the committee had no idea wind turbines were taxed so low.
McGugan also asked the finance committee to allow wineries which don’t have the VOA designation to sell their products at local farmers markets. The province recently allowed the move, but places like Alton Estates and Munro Meadery can’t take advantage of the change because they don’t have the designation.
And McGugan urged the group to scrap the planned Ontario Registered Pension Plan. “Rural Ontario is not in favour of yet another tax and we do not need it.”
McGugan was one of two municipal leaders from Petrolia and Central Lambton to meet with the standing committee on finance. Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Al Broad voiced his concerns about cuts to provincial funding from the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund. Since 2009, Dawn-Euphemia has lost about $1.5 million in provincial funding.
“The magnitude of this cut is significant for a municipality where a reduction of $20,000 represents an increase of 1 per cent in the municipal tax levy,” he told the committee. “The 2015 reduction is equal to an increase of 8.34 per cent to our general purposes tax rate -17 per cent over the past two years.”
“The loss of OMPF funding greatly impacts on our ability to deliver basic services to rural Ontario.”
Broad added the province used to see farming as an important asset for all Ontarians, and every person in the province paid for tax rebates for farmland. With the changes the province, rural Ontario now pays for the subsidies for farmland.
Broad says it is time to take a look at the concept of all of Ontario supporting agriculture. “Full funding means acknowledging the long standing farmland food security support program is for the benefit of all of Ontario and must be funded by all of Ontario.”