In a show of support for the agriculture industry in Grey County, council has voted to reduce the farm tax ratio.
The assessed values of farms are skyrocketing much faster than residential values, and farmers' taxes are shooting up as a result.
At Thursday's meeting (Apr 11) council made the 11-4 decision to reduce the farm tax ratio from 25 to 24 per cent. (Owen Sound's Mayor and Deputy Mayor, Hanover's Mayor and Georgian Bluffs' Deputy Mayor voted against it)
In order to do this, roughly 0.17 of that tax burden was shifted onto other tax classes. Residential ratepayers pay the most taxes of any class.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture says, farm owners don't use municipal infrastructure as much as in-town residents, and as a result, they are taxed at a lower rate.
The federation has been advocating to keep farm taxes at below 25 per cent.
Grey County Ag Federation President Hugh Simpson, along with about 20 other farmers were at Thursday's council meeting. Simpson says his group has been meeting with the County and a number of municipalities over the past few months.
"Because of those values moving towards farms, it doesn't feel philosophically fair. It feels philosophically fair to say, 'Well lets leave the burden the same,'" Simpson explains, "So lets do a calculation on a tax ratio given these news market values that would leave the burden the same," and not shift the burden of tax towards the farm sector.
Simpson feels the county listened, "You've got to be sensitive to all of the stakeholders in the county and I think councillors were that."
Simpson says reducing the ratio by one point isn't a massive shift, but notes, "From a symbolic messaging point of view, it's positive for us."
A consultant's report to the county outlined the Municipal Property Assessment Corp's (MPAC) most recent assessment of farms in the area went up 70 per cent from 2012 to 2016.
Residential values went up only about 5 per cent.