Local farmers are fuming over proposed changes to the current Sarnia Transit taxation system.

Agnes and George Dickenson, Ontario Federation of Agriculture; Member Service Representative for Lambton & Middlesex Joanne Fuller, Ron Forbes and Dan VanHuizen attended a special public input session on Sarnia Transit Service and Property Taxation. June 17, 2017 (Photo by Melanie Irwin)

Currently, conventional bus service is part of a special area tax levy, which means only those within 450 m of a bus route pay taxes for the service.

The idea of removing the special levy didn’t receive any support during a Sarnia council public input session Monday.

Finance Director Lisa Armstrong told residents in her presentation that for every $100,000 of assessment, the change would result in a tax reduction of $8.65 for those who currently pay for transit and would be an increase of $47.02 for those who currently do not pay for transit.

George Dickenson, who lives on a third generation farm on Churchill Line, says they don’t want or require transit service and feel they should not have to pay for it.

He says their family farm is small to average size and they pool resources with his son and daughters operations to get by.

“I was told it would have little impact on agriculture, so my wife went to city hall and they told her based on 2017 taxes, we would pay an extra $406.99,” says Dickenson. “I then took my MPAC statements and figured out in 2020 this would become $614.89. This is only our land and doesn’t include land owned by our children or rented.”

He says levying the serviced area makes the most sense.

“It’s not the same as paying for parks and arenas, those I can choose whether or not I use them, but I can not use a bus service that doesn’t come near me, nor ever will in my lifetime, in a practical world,” says Dickenson.

Dave Park, a partner at Parkland Farms, farmer and provincial director for the Grain Farmers of Ontario, also asked council to leave how city transit is currently funded the same.

“As a rural resident, I have no problem helping pay for a caravan specialized transit service as I do believe that transportation is easily accessible by all of the ratepayers in Sarnia,” says Park. “I do have an issue with being assessed for conventional bus services which aren’t available to us rural farmers.”

Park says he wouldn’t expect the residents in Sarnia to pay for his ditch or drain cleanouts.

“Our property taxes have gone up significantly, due to the increase in the values of our farmland, so we’re already paying drastically more in taxes than just a few years ago,” says Park.

Residents are asked to complete the Transit Tax survey before this Friday, June 23.

You can fill it out online at www.clerks.smartsarnia.com

Paper copies are available from the Customer Service Centre at City Hall, the Strangway Centre and on various Sarnia Transit buses.

Input can also still be sent by email at [email protected] or by calling 519-332-0330.

Staff will report back to council this fall with a summary of public input and option considerations for the 2018 budget year.

~Melanie Irwin~
Blackburn News

Farmers Fuming Over Possible Transit Tax
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