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Town looks to federal government for relief on property taxes

It's something virtually everyone pays across the country, says mayor, and the money will come back to local economy.
Mayor Stewart Strathearn at a council meeting. (File photo)

The Town of Midland is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to have the federal government pay municipal property taxes for its residents.

"It's a very very simple concept, yet very far reaching in terms of leaving money in people's hands and taking stress off them," said Mayor Stewart Strathearn. "Money can then circulate through the local economy, when and as people have needs."

In a release shared late Monday afternoon, the municipality outlines its request of the federal government.

It's asking the federal government to waive 100% of property taxes for houses assessed at below $500,000 or less, 50% for properties assessed below $1 million and 25% for properties assessed above $1 million. Secondary properties are not being considered at this juncture, said Strathearn.

"We put these numbers in there just conceptually," he said. "For houses with an assessed value of up to $500,000, that covers a lot of people. And they are presumably likely to be the most stressed in terms of income."

Similarly, the news release outlines the request of waiver made for local industrial, commercial, and farm properties. The town is asking that the federal government waive 100% of the 2020 property taxes for all industrial, commercial, and farm properties currently assessed at or under $ 10,000,000, 50% for properties currently assessed between $10,000,000 and $ 50,000,000, and waive 25% for all such properties assessed above $50,000,000.

"If the federal government turns around and says they want to use different percentages on a more granular scale, that's their prerogative," said Strathearn. "We're just hoping that they'll do something with respect to property tax. Because it's something virtually everybody pays across the country. It leaves the money in the local economy."

Further, according to the release, the town is asking that the federal government to transfer funds to municipalities across Canada in the form of a one-time grant by June 20, to address these extraordinary circumstances.

“Canadians enter this time of crisis with a high amount of house-hold debt, and many in our region are no different,” said Amanpreet Sidhu, chief administrative officer, Town of Midland. “This simple step we are proposing should alleviate some of this financial pressure and allow for residents and businesses to focus on more important matters during this time. We hope that the prime minister and the federal government will agree with us.”

At the municipality's end, Strathearn said, the mechanics of implementing this would be simple. The administrative facility already exists at the municipal level, he said, so staff will not have to set up any vetting mechanisms.

As well, Strathearn said staff already knows which properties are assessed at what level and who has already paid taxes. 

"First of all, if you haven't paid, you don't pay," he said. "Chances are if you've paid your taxes, you get a rebate. And that's the simplicty of it. We already have local property tax staff that are capable of adjusting your bill."

With regards to wages for small business staff, Strathearn said, owners are covered under some programs by the federal government.

"People who are laid off and don't have access to EI, (the federal government) is making sure they have access to EI," he said.

On a municipal level, Strathearn said council will consider deferral of tax payments until May 29.

"And to make sure that people don't have to pay it all at once, they can pay in installments after May 29," he said. "We're waiving a lot of other municipal charges...transit is free, we're not collecting dog tag licences and anything with municipal fees, we're pretty much waiving them."

The letter has been sent to the premier's office as well as to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and will also be going to the chief administrative officers for Simcoe County municipalities.

"We're likely going to put a resolution before council on the April 1 meeting and then it will be distributed to all the municipalities in Ontario," he said.