The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has serious concerns with the recent comments made by Middlesex County Warden Kurtis Smith in the March 27th London Free Press article, ‘Middlesex County rejects farmers’ bid for lower tax ratio’ by Jonathan Juha.
Warden Smith’s comments clearly indicate Middlesex County’s lack of understanding of Ontario’s property tax system and the rising tax burden on their farmers. The Warden suggested that reducing the ratio for farmland would shift the burden to other property owners. In fact, not reducing the ratio causes a shift of the tax burden onto farmers. We recognize that farmers are the minority of voters so this position may be good politics, but it is not good public policy.
The Warden further indicates a desire to come up with a long-term solution “because if we just reduced the tax ratio for agricultural land, that’s just a Band-Aid approach . . . and we would have to look at this year after year after year”. Realistically, the change in the tax ratio would be a long-term policy that would require calculations to be revisited each year, just as budgets and taxes are revisited each year. The math would be clear, the political will just has to be there.
The one thing that is very clear is that Middlesex County is not seeing this issue for what it really is – an unfair transfer of the tax burden to farmers.
OFA has proposed a long-term solution to all Ontario municipalities that would set fair tax ratios for farmland, not a band-aid solution. Middlesex and others simply need to listen.
Ontario Federation of Agriculture