Setting some facts straight

Dear editor:
I was just forwarded a copy of the recent news article that your paper ran headlined “Unorganized areas likely to see tax hike.”
The more I read, the more distressed I became. So many wrong facts make it hard for me to believe that your reporter did his homework, and to quote so many municipal mayors and councillors—but not one quote from an unorganized ratepayer who could have set the reporter straight.
I will try to do this for your paper.
Mayor Dan Onichuk is quoted as saying, “As it relates to things like the District Social Services Administration Board that deals with welfare, housing, and ambulance services, right now the people in the unorganized areas contribute zero to that.”
Fact: Each District Social Services Administration Board sets up its own method of cost apportionment. The municipalities are levied a fee by the DSSAB and the unorganized portion of the cost is billed to the provincial government ministry responsible for the service it is being billed for.
For example, the Ministry of Community and Social Services would be billed for the unorganized share of the DSSAB cost for welfare (Ontario Works) and child care.
Mayor Onichuk also states “in every household in Fort Frances, in Rainy River, and all organized municipalities, there is a per capita.”
So, not being privy to the DSSAB cost allocation method for the Rainy River DSSAB, I would take that as each person—every man, woman, and child—are billed so much for the services provided by the DSSAB.
This would include the unorganized areas, as the representatives for the unorganized areas would have had to vote on this issue.
Mayor Onichuk expands his knowledge of unorganized taxation by stating “in the unorganized areas, they don’t pay anything toward those, specifically from property taxes.”
Fact: The Province of Ontario issues, normally in March, a PLT bill to each unorganized account for payment. This is based on 1941 property values and, as stated, usually is a minimal charge for the property taxes.
However, when the school boards amalgamated and the province started the downloading process, the province set forth a rate to pay for “locally-delivered services” that were provided for the district and would be paid by a Provincial Land Tax supplemental bill that is collected from the unorganized ratepayers by the board of education.
Those “locally-delivered services” are those services that are provided by the DSSAB and the assessment that is used by the board of education is the CVA (current value assessment)—the same as is used to determine municipal taxation.
For example, in our district (Kenora), the rate charged by the Keewatin Patricia District School Board is .00256427 for the Provincial Land Tax Supplement (the Ministry of Finance refers to this as the iPLT) while the rate for the education tax is .00264000.
Whether or not the Rainy River District School Board breaks down the funds it collects from the unorganized areas, I don’t know. What I do know is they collect this iPLT and forward it to the province on behalf of the unorganized ratepayers.
So when the municipal politician or provincial bureaucrat states the province pays the unorganized share of the DSSAB costs, they are wrong, wrong, wrong. The province simply is playing the role of the banker for the unorganized ratepayer’s property taxes.
Mayor Onichuk also stated that maybe now the unorganized would want to have to say for the pay they are going to have to remit. I would say the three members of the DSSAB that represent the unorganized on the Rainy River DSSAB—Michael Lewis, John Callan, and Wade Desserre—would say that has been happening all along.
Mayor Val Pizey stated “those areas that don’t have municipal government don’t share in the costs and their taxes are a great deal lower than ours.” Why is that? Could it be that the unorganized ratepayer doesn’t rely on a public works crew to clear their snow, fix their watermains, or repair their sewer.
In the unorganized areas, generally speaking, we do things for ourselves and if repairs are needed, we call the persons that are required to fix the problem and pay for it ourselves.
Most municipalities charge user fees for persons outside their municipal boundaries for things like libraries and recreation sports and events. That is fair game—the municipal taxpayer shouldn’t be paying for unorganized people to use their facilities for free.
Coun. Tannis Drysdale stated “before downloading, social services were paid through income tax. When the province downloaded these services to district municipalities, they had to be paid through property tax.
Fact: Municipalities always have raised their funding requirements through property tax, not simply since downloading.
Fact: All funds raised by the Province of Ontario go to the general fund account of the province. Income taxes (that also are paid by the unorganized residents) did not go specifically for a social service payment account, but went into the province’s general fund account.
Certainly, if you live in an unorganized area and are outside the school board boundary, you probably will see a rise in your tax bill. However, if you live inside the school board boundary, any increase in your tax bill should be minimal since you already pay for your share of the “locally-delivered services” through the iPLT.
Certainly, the PLT reform should help municipalities with their costs as now all unorganized ratepayers will be contributing. In the Kenora District, there are almost 50 percent of the assessed unorganized properties outside the school board boundaries (I don’t know the percentage for the Rainy River area).
Should your reporter want to do another story on the PLT, I would suggest he contact the DSSAB representatives that I mentioned earlier for their take on the situation before going to print.
Yours respectfully,
Bill Blower
Red Lake, Ont.

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