I recently received Pictou County Council’s fall “Rural News & Views” newsletter. On page 2 of Warden Parker’s message it includes a statement that caught my eye as not being factual. He states: “The Oversight Committee will ensure that taxpayer dollars are only being used for what they were meant for. Municipal dollars are not meant to subsidize business but to improve the overall business climate.”
The facts are quite different from what are claimed by the Warden. When setting 2017 tax rates, council knowingly used a method contrary to the Municipal Government Act in provincial legislation which states quite clearly: “(7) The tax rates shall be those which the council deems sufficient to raise the amount required to defray the estimated requirements of the municipality.”
This council has included in their annual budget, under expenditures, the amounts required to pay the annual Provincial Property Taxes from revenue. They include the Mandatory Education Tax, Correctional Services Tax, Provincial Library Tax and the Nova Scotia Housing Deficit Tax. These taxes total $5,020,757.00 and have their own tax rates determined by the province. They are intended to be charged directly to each residential and commercial property owner as a line item addition on their annual tax billing collected by the municipality as a convenience to the province. By including the amounts in expenditures property owners are being double taxed without knowing it. An example being $1.81/$100 commercial tax rate and $0.81 resident tax rate on top of a $0.32 provincial tax rate for education and so on. That is illegal.
If it is indeed council’s mandate to “improve the overall business climate,” then they must remove provincial taxes from the budget and reduce the commercial tax rate to +/- $1.25/100 and residential tax rate to $0.55/$100 plus a separate small provincial property tax. The long-term savings would bring a smile to all property owners. If some councillors believe that low-income property owners will be negatively impacted, they should know that the province provides a 50 per cent municipal tax rebate of up to $800 and the municipality provides a rebate of $200 for eligible property owners. These amounts need to be updated to keep up with inflation. Currently it is up to the property owner to apply for these rebates and use them to reduce or eliminate their taxes. In reality the rebates should be applied directly to their tax accounts instead of being sent out as cheques.
I have given this information to several local businesses and homeowners who have complained to their district councillors. The more people who do so, the greater chance council will see their error in judgment. Anyone wanting more information can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.