The federal government uses a method of tax payment known as Payment in Lieu of taxes, (PILT). Over the years, us taxpayers have covered the costs of the unpaid taxes or PILT owed on the army base. After a long battle with the federal government, Meaford has finally gained a settlement of $1,665,000.00 for back taxes owed on the army base. This PILT money, plus the 2020 budget surplus of $314,000.00, provides Meaford Council with a nearly two million dollar ($2,000,000.00) windfall, over and above this year’s budget.
A recent report to Council recommended several projects or studies on how to spend this windfall. It was all about how to spend more money on consultants. For example, spending $80,000 for an “update” of the Service Delivery Review, (a review of The Review). In 2015 staff wrote a report stating that the study would cost “$3,500 for management time”; now the estimated cost is projected to be $80,000. They have also proposed $30,000 for Salary Market Review. Staff are recommending more ways to spend this money, but none that will actually help residents and businesses cope with the fallout of the pandemic. Just read the May 31 Council agenda.
None of these recommendations considered returning the money to the taxpayers, helping local businesses and taxpayers survive and recover from the worldwide pandemic. Small businesses and even large businesses are struggling. Some may never reopen. This is especially true of the small businesses on the main street and throughout the municipality. We know from previous budget information, fifty (50) percent of houses (3,100) have an average assessment of $271,600, which means that many taxpayers are not in a high income bracket. So, Council must already know how hard the economic consequences of the pandemic are hitting the businesses and individual taxpayers of Meaford.
I’d like to make several recommendations of a different kind for the Council to consider. Perhaps, in addition to helping businesses (or) residents, Council should go against a staff recommendation and instead say yes to the Joint Municipal Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee. Furthermore, the Council should recognize the huge strain on the business community and on us taxpayers by doing two things: waive business taxes for this year and two more years, and approve no more property tax increases for two or even three years in order to allow taxpayers and businesses to rebuild their finances.
With this once in a lifetime windfall of nearly $2 million dollars, Council has the ability to make a huge difference in taxpayer’s lives.
Douglas Robinson, Meaford