SCUGOG: Scugog council chambers were filled to the brim on Monday, Feb. 3 as over 40 local residents and business owners turned out in protest of the 5.8 per cent tax hike being imposed in 2014.
Feelings of discontent and confusion with the increasing taxation in Scugog was presented to Scugog Mayor Chuck Mercier and his councillors, as three prominent business owners and Chamber of Commerce representatives made a deputation.
Scugog councillors expressed their understanding and regret for the tax levy, which they explained was necessary for the upkeep and growth of Port Perry and North Durham at large. The Scugog Chamber of Commerce, alongside numerous local business owners, agreed to correspond with councillors and form a de-facto steering committee, in advance of the Township’s budget open house and presentation on Wednesday, Feb. 12, in the Scugog Memorial Public Library, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m..
Tony Janssen - the first vice president of the Scugog Chamber of Commerce, Roman Semeniuk – owner of the Canplex manufacturing facility on Scugog’s Sixth Line, and Ken Koury – owner of The Nutty Chocolatier on Queen St. as well as a manufacturing plant on Northport Rd. raised a deputation together, which asked councillors to explain the consistent increases of taxation and to work with the local Chamber of Commerce to “look at all of the avenues” and find a viable solution to the Township’s expanding budget needs.
Mr. Janssen expressed that he has seen many local residents and business owners explain that they cannot continue to pay the cost of doing of doing business due to rising property taxes, while Mr. Semeniuk expressed dissatisfaction by saying, “If businesses and residents have to suffer to make it through tough financial times, I think that council members should have to do the same. It’s a tough job, but it’s your job.”
The final statement was made by Mr. Koury, the well-known proprietor of the Scugog-based Nutty Chocolatier franchise and resident for more than 25 years. “I have to dig in and make it work, which is what I ask you people to do,” said Mr. Koury. “The business climate is poor, and we just don’t have the money. As for my facility, I cannot afford the expenses and taxes, it is up for sale and I am being forced to leave Scugog.”
Trena DeBruijn, Director of Finance, informed councillors that the levy is equal to $58 per-year to the average household.
Mayor Chuck Mercier asked attendees, “Is a roughly $5 increase per-month on your tax bill worth investing in the roads, businesses, and livelihood of Scugog?”
Councilor Howard Danson offered his point of view on the controversial matter, stating that the decisions a township budget committee has to make are difficult, and that he pays taxes as well.
“This is nothing new, taxes are high, but we keep telling people that Scugog is the second lowest taxed township in the region,” said Councilor Howard Danson. “People will rap us for high taxes, and then turn around and say ‘we don’t even have a pool, when are you building a pool?’”
Councillor Wilma Wotten then stated, “To raise the 2.4 million dollars required to fix only Ashburn Rd., we would need to increase the tax levy by 23.4 per cent; to complete our to-do list, we would need to levy 500 per cent. We do what we can with the resources we have.”
Mayor Chuck Mercier explained that the imposed one percent ‘special levy’ is a method for the Township of Scugog to gain access to Provincial funding.
“Scugog Township has applied for provincial grants to fix our roads twice, we received zero,” said Mayor Mercier. “One of the factors is that we did not have a financial plan to pony up our share, so we will impose a one per cent levy as part of that plan. This is so that we can put water, sewage, and a pumping station in on the 6th line, to help the growth of the community.”
Councillors ended the meeting with a statement that Scugog has to spend money to make money, and is trying to build a sustainable and growing tax base. Residents are encouraged to attend the 2014 budget open house on Wednesday, Feb. 12, in the Scugog Memorial Public Library from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.