At their regular virtual meeting on Tuesday evening, Town of Virden Council discussed the province’s plans to phase out the education portion of municipal property taxes, which were outlined in this year’s budget. Under the scheme, the education tax credit will be reduced in the first phase from $700 to $500 annually. Owners of residential and farm properties are eligible to receive a rebate of 25 % of their gross education property taxes in the first year, and another 25% in the second year, as a cheque paid directly from the province in October when the property tax liabilities are due.
Chief Administrative Officer Rhonda Stewart told councillors she thought it would have been more effective to apply the rebate as a credit to the outstanding property tax bills. She explained that the Manitoba Municipal Administrators Association has penned a letter to the province advising of its concerns regarding the plan to issue the rebates by cheque. People whose taxes have fallen into arrears and risk having their properties put up for tax sale will receive money without a stipulation that it be applied to the outstanding liability. In other cases, the cheque may be sent to whomever has their name on the tax roll at the time the bills are printed; they may no longer own the property. Stewart speculates that the process will cause confusion, create extra work for Town staff and result in them bearing the brunt of complaints from ratepayers. She says it will negatively effect on the Town’s cash flow. The Town will still have to send the school taxes collected to the Fort La Bosse School Division.
Stewart asked Council if they wished her to draft a similar letter on behalf of the Town, and Mayor Murray Wright agreed.
"I think we should draft up a letter and make sure we send it in with our concerns because unless something comes along that's going to change a few of these things, it's going to be a bit of a disaster," he said.
"I feel like the province wants to mail out cheques…that they like people getting a cheque from them," said Deputy Mayor Tina Williams. "It's money in their pocket, because sometimes if we just get money taken off and put back on, like on tax paper, we don't think of it as getting money back. They are trying to make a good impression with this. People will remember getting a cheque in the mail. That's maybe a cynical view of it, but that's what I tend to think."
Williams’ motion for Council to put its concerns in writing passed unanimously.
Councillors have the opportunity to put their name forward for the position of Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) Western District Director. The election will take place at the district meetings, held virtually in June. The newly elected Western District Director will serve on the AMM Board until June of 2023. Currently, the directors are Carberry Mayor Stuart Olmstead and Boissevain-Morton Councillor Rhonda Coupland.
Council authorized that agreements be entered into with applicable ratepayers for the payment of outstanding taxes.
R.M. of Wallace-Woodworth Councillor Mark Humphries, Chairperson of the Border Regional Library Board of Directors, will now represent it as a Trustee on the Board of the Manitoba Library Association. The Town of Virden and the R.M. have agreed to cost-share associated meeting expenses. The R.M. of Ellice-Archie, also a funding partner in the Border Regional system, opted out of the arrangement, preferring that these expenditures be covered from the library’s budget.