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‘It would be very tedious and would be very time-consuming’; Savage on Islanders tax break

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A two-month process of looking into how West Nipissing Islanders are taxed came to an end earlier this week.

In a letter to council, the residents asked elected officials to consider creating a tax category for water access residents similar to what’s in place in Muskoka and Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands.

“The process could be a very tedious undertaking and a lot of study,” Mayor Joanne Savage said. “Based on that rationale and the explanation provided, council didn’t want to pursue this matter further but there were a lot of discussions that took place.”

Originally the request came up almost a year ago when council was in the midst of the 2019 budget meetings.

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“This was a group of taxpayers that had brought this issue to the attention of council members,” Savage said. “It was unrealistic to have those discussions during budget and it would be discussed at a later date.”

The later date was early December when council first debated the issue. At the time, Savage said it would be a sign of good faith if the matter could be examined, and that there were some services that water only access taxpayers didn’t receive such as snowplows.

“The issue was to find out if we could provide a special levy to them,” she explained. “We have a lot of property owners that are water only within the boundaries of West Nipissing. The majority of these owners would be in the area of Sandy Island and the upper French River.”

“I understand the tax structure that we have and the uniqueness of West Nipissing,” Savage continued. “We’re a ward system, we have a combination of urban and rural settings and we are blessed to be surrounded by these rivers and lakes. The group was not disputing the assessment they had, but what they wanted for council to discuss was a fair and equitable distribution of taxes.”

It’s an issue that was debated long and hard says, Savage.

“Since we are in budget deliberations for 2020, it was important to entertain those discussions and if council could do it and how they could do it,” she said. “It’s clear that the municipal act does allow this provision for designated areas but you have to determine the actual cost.”

“With the explanation and rationale provided to staff, that would not be a very easy study to get done,” Savage added. “It would be very tedious and would be very time-consuming. Therefore council, with these details, agreed we would not be dedicating resources to pursue the matter further.”

With the decision comes disappointment for the residents hoping to see this passed, but Savage says they have been very understanding throughout the process.

“They understand that their request wasn’t favourable,” she said. “They appreciate that their voice was heard at the table. They appreciate the fact that the subject matter was not ignored and that their issues they had identified were discussed at council.”

“From a business side, they understand that it wouldn’t be realistic to dedicate our resources of our municipality on this one subject matter,” Savage continued. “Of course they’re disappointed, but they understand the impact and fairness to other residents of West Nipissing. If everyone had known the details from the get-go, this issue wouldn’t have taken as long to be able to respond to their request.”

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