Rate payers in the Municipality of Rhineland have had the chance to voice their thoughts on a proposed recreation tax. A public hearing into the matter was held Wednesday morning in Council chambers.
The suggested by-law would allow Council to levy a tax on residential properties, including vacant lots, in order to pay for the recreational services and facilities that are currently offered. The tax would only apply to residences outside of the L.U.D.s of Plum Coulee, Rosenfeld and Gretna that already pay recreation taxes, and remove the current recreation levy on businesses and farmland. Under the plan, the new levy would generate $90,000 for recreation in 2017, $95,000 in 2018, $100,000 in 2019 and $105,000 in 2020.
Nathan Friesen is a farmer from Halbstadt. He was at Wednesday's hearing and wanted to hear first hand where these extra dollars are coming from and how they will be spent.
While he admits farmers are concerned with the increase in taxes they saw in the last assessment, in particular with regards to education tax, Friesen says that as a member of the community recreation is still important with opportunities available to families in the area.
"...coming to understand that (the levy) is coming off of farmland is a good thing I think as farmers, but I think we still need to maintain the idea that we are part of a community that we have to contribute to."
Friesen feels however, that a bigger picture shift in taxation on farmland needs to happen.
"I think the R.M. has that capability, as we found out here today, but they seem hesitant to address it."
Meantime, a woman from the Village of Rosetown is taking a firm stand against the proposed by-law.
Amanda Braun says it is unfair to alleviate business and farmland from the social responsibility of providing services in the area and place the burden strictly on residences.
She explains that on a $200,000 assessment, homeowners are paying between $10 and $20 in recreation levies per year and says that will jump to about $100. Braun feels this would put many families in a position where they and/or their kids could no longer participate in those very recreation activities, noting her concern lies with families living at or below the poverty level.
"(Another) concern is there's a lot of farmers and business that don't actually live in the Municipality but reap the benefits of the Municipality and no longer have to contribute to recreation in any form." She adds, "The highest tax bracket no longer has any responsibility for recreation."
Braun feels the current tax system - where all sectors share responsibility for recreation services - is how these costs should be covered.
Chief Administrative Officer Michael Rempel says Council is planning to review and contemplate the comments and objections received at the hear over the next couple of weeks and plan to make a decision on the proposed tax sometime in early January.