By Connor Lynch
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has been lobbying rural municipalities for three years to reduce the farm tax rates. West of Toronto, the farm organization has made a convincing case to a majority of counties, though there are still holdouts.
The OFA has successfully convinced nine of the thirteen counties it has lobbied to bring property tax rates down. The three holdouts: Middlesex County, Perth County and Huron County, have all resisted changing their ratios. The OFA has yet to lobby Essex County, Wellington County or Waterloo Region.
The issue first started kicking up dust in farm country back in 2016. The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), a Crown corporation that does land valuations for the province, released its farmland values report. The results were pretty shocking: Farmland values throughout Ontario shot up faster than residential property.
Concerned that farmers would end up shouldering a bigger proportion of the municipal tax burden, local federations of agriculture started reaching out to the OFA.
The OFA in turn sent analyst Ben LeFort on a fact-finding mission: Crunch the numbers to figure out how much the municipality can reduce the farm tax ratio to keep things proportional.
Property taxes on farmland work like this: The tax rate is set as a percentage of the residential tax rate, capped at 25 per cent. Most municipalities just set it at 25 per cent and leave it alone. For example: If the residential tax rate in a municipality is 10 per cent, the highest the farmland tax rate can be is 2.5 per cent. But if farmland prices rise 20 per cent over the same period that residential land prices rise 10 per cent, farms end up paying a disproportionate amount of tax, the OFA argues.
So far, 17 of the 30 upper-tier municipalities have agreed to reduce their farm tax rates below the 25 per cent cap.
Here’s where Western Ontario’s farm tax rates stand:
Essex: Not lobbied.
Kent: Reduced to 22 per cent.
Lambton: Reduced to 23 per cent.
Middlesex: No change.
Elgin: Reduced to 23 per cent.
Oxford: Reduced to 24 per cent.
Perth: No change.
Huron: No change.
Wellington: Not lobbied.
Waterloo: Not lobbied.
London: Reduced to 18 per cent.
Hamilton: Reduced to 18 per cent.
Brant County: Reduced to 24 per cent.
Caledon: Reduced to 17 per cent.
Halton Region: Reduced to 20 per cent.
Haldimand County: No change.