Minutes of settlement proving costly for Minto

Tax adjustments coming out of the town’s minutes of settlement may prove good News to some residents, but it will be costly to the town.

November’s Minutes of Settlement was three pages long and dealt with reconsideration or removal of industrial assessment and decreases in residential and commercial as­sessments due to appeals with the Municipal Property Assess­ment Corporation and changing residential to farmland, managed forest, or exemptions due to errors and reinterpretation of legislation of MPAC and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food, and Rural Affairs on the town’s assessment roll.

Mayor David Anderson said he looked through the list and, “I see tons of decreases, and one change. But the change is still a decrease.”

Treasurer Gord Duff ex­plained this report was unique in comparison to the average minutes of settlement.

 “If you’ve been following in the Newspapers, there’s been quite a bit of controversy about the assessment of farms as residential.”

He said virtually all the “changes” of assessment fell in that category. “This is where it really costs both us and the county a lot of money.”

He said the town is legally bound to assess its tax rates on the properties on the returns.

A number of the farms were assessed as fully residential, Duff said. The minutes of settlement are correcting the error.

However, in some in­stan­ces, the correction has also changed the value of the property as a whole. The town can only levy the farm as 25% residential.

He anticipated that in Minto it will result in over $20,000 in write-offs; for the county it is $29,000, “and this is just one batch.”

He said the write-offs are happening right across the province.

Councillor Wayne Martin asked what happened to the process that was supposed to deal with the inefficiencies at MPAC.

Anderson said there was something in place a year and a half ago.

“But didn’t the Ontario Ombudsman have a report?” Martin asked.

“That report was supposed to be used as a correction vehicle … and here we are again with major mistakes.”

Duff said, “But this is a completely different problem. This could happen any year. Some of these farms have been in existence for generations.”

He said MPAC is saying it can only operate on the information OMAFRA gives it, and OMAFRA is saying it can only operate on the information the farmers give it.

Martin asked if there is anything Minto should be considering.

Anderson said what is currently happening is the county warden and the chairman of the county administration, finance and personnel committee are sending letters to the president of MPAC.

He said this has been an ongoing topic for the Well­ing­ton County Treasurers Asso­ciation. “It’s got the support of the county as a whole.”

He said Wellington is trying to obtain the support of all the other counties and regions in the province.

“It’s not only this county that’s being affected, it’s the whole province.”

He said there will definitely be a delegation at the Good Roads conference to MPAC.

Martin said it definitely seems a review is in order.

“It’s a huge issue,” agreed Anderson.

Duff said the changes “are playing havoc with our budget.”

Martin said in the past, the number of assessment appeals was relatively minimal.

“Now that MPAC comes in,  they increase dramatically. It’s a major increase in administrative costs that got dumped back onto us.

“Somebody’s got to step to the plate and get a handle on this,” he said.