Editor’s Note: The following letter was initially sent to the Town of Small Point-Broad Cove-Blackhead-Adam’s Cove.
Having recently received my 2018 tax bill, I feel obliged to express some concerns regarding what I feel is an unfair, unjust and discriminatory tax increase.
Let me be clear. I am not opposed to taxation at any government level; it is completely necessary and justified. Governments cannot carry out programs and offer essential services without it. However, I am absolutely opposed to any tax increase which can be considered unnecessary, unfair and which often inflicts a degree of hardship on ordinary working people and retirees.
In 2017 (maybe 2016), the council commissioned an assessment of properties in the town by the Municipal Assessment Agency. I can only assume that the intent of this assessment was to implement an equitable property tax which would be fair to all property owners, both resident and non-resident. It seems however that this appraisal was totally ignored because it did not meet the approval of the council and was replaced by a bench-mark value of $157,000. This resulted in all property owners having to pay a fixed tax of $550 and above that, based on a pre-determined mil rate. If this was the plan, why spend thousands of taxpayers’ dollars for an appraisal which council rejected as not in their best interest? It strikes me as a complete waste of taxpayers’ dollars.
The fact that approximately 65 per cent of the properties in the town are owned by seasonal residents only adds to the obvious injustice and discrimination. What I am about to say is not only about me but also about dozens of other property owners in the same situation. We are summer residents – often June to September or October and often only weekends. However, I, like many of them, has my water shut off in September and turned on in late June. For this, I am assessed $365. Why can’t water taxes be prorated on a monthly or maybe quarterly basis? Very easy to implement, if the will to so do exists. Where is the justice here?
Non-resident taxpayers have no say or no vote; cannot make a representation to council regarding issues that affect them. This is a blatant tax grab, plain and simple; a gross injustice to a large number of seasonal residents who are being forced to supplement the taxes paid by the others and are gouged by a council intent on taking unfairness, injustice and discrimination to a whole new level. In the next few months, council will be obliged to provide answers and hopefully make decisions and changes in the best interest all taxpayers, resident and non-resident.
In an article published recently in The Telegram, the contributor expressed her views extremely well under the headline “Tax system doesn’t treat all residents fairly.” How revealing and true. Has it gained any traction? Not yet, maybe, but I feel sure it certainly will.
In 2017, the council got by on about $200 to $300 less than they need this year. Have expenses spiked that much in a few short months? I think not. Council has three full-time employees; not a large payroll to say the least. I can only assume that council has a significant bank balance, is squandering a lot of money or has a huge debt load.
Can I request, on behalf of non-residents, a copy of last year’s financial report and this year’s budget? Taxpayers have a right to know, but not living in the town might mean that these figures are not always readily available.
Undoubtedly, council has the legal right to make decisions that they have to make but they also have the moral obligation to treat all residents fairly. Maybe it’s time for the Department of Municipal Affairs to step in and have this council justify why they have taken the steps that they have. Legality is one thing - fairness is another. This issue will not go away.
In the weeks and months ahead, council will be asked to take a long hard look at the decisions they have made. I only hope that you, as citizens ourselves, will have the foresight and courage to make changes that will be in the best interest of all property owners, both resident and non-resident.
Ches Stanford writes from Clarenville