SCUGOG: A well-attended presentation on property tax rates for Scugog Island property owners this week failed to spur local councillors into actions requested by the speaker, including a rezoning of the ward from residential to farmland based on what was deemed an unfair tax rate for constituents.
Scugog Island resident Don Kett, of the Islanders Tax Relief Action Committee, appeared before council this past Monday evening (April 15), outlining the concerns of his neighbours over the amount paid in annual property taxes versus the amenities and services provided to the area. Mr. Kett, who ran unsuccessfully for the Ward 3 council seat in the 2010 municipal election, requested Councillor Jim Howard, who represents the Island, to make a motion that would bring about a proposed zoning change – from residential to farmland – that Mr. Kett believed would result in a reduced tax rate for the community, citing a precedent set by the City of Kawartha Lakes in a similar scenario.
The motion did not materialize, however, with another put forth by Councillor Howard – to create a committee to look into taxation issues from a township-wide perspective – defeated by a lack of support from fellow councillors. A similar motion put forth by Ward 1 Councillor Larry Corrigan, to establish a committee to examine the Island tax issue with the assistance of municipal staff, was also grounded.
In his presentation, which followed a March meeting for Island residents on the same issues, Mr. Kett outlined the concerns of the community, among them a lack of natural gas connections for Island residences, the presence of only one access road, and the absence of such amenities as streetlights, sidewalks and indoor recreation facilities present in other Scugog communities.
"For the extra taxes that we pay," said Mr. Kett, "we get substandard roads and we have no sidewalks on the island…. There are families that have been on the island since confederation. It seems to be a place where you go and stay."
In addition to the proposed rezoning, Mr. Kett also suggested the township redirect funding from sources such as the annual contribution of gaming revenue from the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino, one suggestion among many met with criticism from councillors.
Ward 5 Councillor and Finance Committee chair Howard Danson took exception to the proposed rezoning as a tax reduction measure, questioning the viability of such a suggestion as well as outlining the role of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) in determining taxes through property values.
"Zoning is something else," said Councillor Danson. "You haven't mentioned MPAC at all – what do you think they're reaction would be to having something classed what it isn't? Who would pick up the slack if we redirected funding from gas tax and the casino?"
Mayor Chuck Mercier balked at the suggestion to divide the township's many communities into separate tax categories, stating that other neighbourhoods should not bear the burden for perceived under-servicing.
"We have to be fair," said the mayor. "You want a discount while others have to pay more, which isn't good. You're asking for a discounted rate that everyone else in the township would have to pay for. The Island is not under-privileged - that's why people live there. Scugog's real estate values go up every year because this is a premium place to live and as a result, one of our biggest issues is our young people not being able to afford to live here."