Wilkinson offers assurances that grant funds are unaffected by MPAC errors

MPAC issues are now on the radar for Perth-Wellington MPP John Wil­kinson after a recent meeting here with local municipal officials.

The Municipal Property As­sess­ment Corporation itself is an issue Wilkinson is more than aware of, having once serv­­ed as the corporation’s vice-chairman.

Wilkinson said, “In rural Ontario, there is a tax advantage for farmers where they are assessed at 25% [of the residential rate]. To do that, they must be qualified farmers, which in­clud­es membership to one of three main farm organizations.

The records are kept by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food, and Rural Affairs. In turn, OMAFRA tells MPAC who qualifies.

“This year, there was a bit of delay in that process,” said Wilkinson.

As a result, some of the notices of the draft roll were sent to municipalities with some farms being classed as resi­dential instead of agricultural.

“That overstates both the taxes and the revenue to the municipality,” Wilkinson noted. He said the error has been caught and MPAC is in the process of making sure the information is up to date. He said his discussions with local municipalities centred on what reform can take place to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

He was asking if there is a simpler, more effective way of doing the job, with suggestions from the municipalities.

As well, most municipalities in his riding benefit from the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF), which is based on the assessment data. Those data show the ratio of farmland com­pared to residential land and industrial within the muni­cipality.

He explained if the base data are incorrect, that, in turn, can make the grant payments incorrect.

“I was able to assure the municipalities that because OMPF is an open, transparent process, there is a process for all municipalities. All that information is made public. If there is a mistake in the data, we will correct that.”

He said the municipalities were glad to hear that if there is a mistake, there is a process to correct it. There were also concerns regarding the backlog of assessments affected by building permits.

“I was surprised,” Wilkin­son said. “It wasn’t on my radar as an MPP, but it is now.”

That backlog getting properties on the assessment roles can go as far back as 2006. Af­ter three years, the municipality loses the property taxes.

As a result, he offered to set up a discussion with MPAC.

“Many years ago, I served as vice-chairman of MPAC so I know the people there,” Wil­kinson said.

That meeting would likely happen via conference call. “It is an urgent concern.”

He said the  global recession is not just affecting the federal and provincial governments, which are both running a record deficits.

“It is affecting our municipalities. So it is important that people who are required to pay their taxes, actually pay them. But they can’t pay them unless they are assessed.”

If there is a backlog, it is im­portant those properties are assessed, so people are paying their fair share, he said.

“But you can’t pay it, unless you get your notice.”