By Connor Lynch
PETERBOROUGH — While all counties will have to grapple with how to handle the spike in farmland value assessments, so far things aren’t looking good. Prince Edward County has had an unexpected change of heart, shutting down a motion to reduce its farm tax rate.
The county council initially voted unanimously last month to reduce the farm tax rate to 20 per cent of the residential rate, down from 25 per cent, to offset the increase in farmland values. That motion was expected to be ratified at a council meeting Jan. 24, but was defeated 9-7. The farm tax rate is capped at 25 per cent of the residential rate by provincial law. In Western Ontario, Elgin County also recently shut down a request from farmers to adjust the farm tax rate.
Meanwhile, Peterborough County is mulling an adjustment of the farm tax rate, after the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) pushed farmland values in the county up by an average of 120 per cent over the next four years.
The assessment would mean a spike in farm property values by 30 per cent each year, and unless the farm tax rate is adjusted, farmers can expect a similar adjustment hike to their property taxes. Across Ontario, MPAC increased farmland assessments by 16 per cent per year over the next four years.
Peterborough County council directed staff to look into the issue after a debate last month. The county treasurer wrote in a report last month that he strongly believed the farm tax rate should not be adjusted downward.
A council motion to consult a policy advisor with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) was also defeated. One councillor warned that a farm tax rate adjustment would shift the tax burden to residents in town.
Peterborough, Durham, Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton OFA director Steven Brackenridge said that the potential tax increase for farmers isn’t mere sabre rattling because municipalities across Ontario are scrambling for “every revenue source they can (get).”
The OFA is concerned that, because residential land values typically rise by far less than farmland values, the tax burden will shift disproportionately to farmers unless the farm tax rate is adjusted.
“I’m pleased that Peterborough County is at least considering (adjusting the farm tax rate),” Brackenridge said.