Local farmers urged to file request for reconsideration on their farm assessments

EVANSVILLE—A group of over 50 Island farmers met last week to discuss their concerns with the significant increases they face on farmland value assessments through the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and the need for each individual farmer to put forward a request for reconsideration on their property.

“We have to file these requests, we have to; we have to fight this issue as a group,” stated local farmer Ken Noland at a meeting held last Friday in Burpee-Mills. He strongly urged all those in attendance to file a request, which has to be sent to MPAC by February 8.

“I know with the new assessment there has been a major shift in the tax base in our township (Burpee-Mills), from 80 percent residential and 20 percent farmland to what is now 70 percent residential and 30 percent farmland,” said Mr. Noland.

“This new rate is fairly consistent across the Island, and what is going to happen is that municipalities will have to raise their millrate (taxes),” stated Mr. Noland. He pointed out his assessment has gone up significantly.

“I bought a farm 12 years ago paying with a barn on the property, but it blew down over 20 years ago, but there was no reduction in the assessment,” said Mr. Noland. “That is why you need to check what your farms are assessed at.”

“And I think there is very little Class 1 farm land on Manitoulin Island that MPAC says is valued at $3,000 per acre in sales,” stated Mr. Noland. “I don’t think any farmland on the Island has sold for $3,000 an acre.”

Hal Love, of Real Estate Advisory Services based in Tehkummah, told the meeting, “I put together a list of agriculture use properties that have been sold between 2012-2015 on the Island and the highest prices had two houses on the property, 3,600 square feet of cement (barn yard) and other things, and it sold for $2,750 per acre. But most if not all the other properties went for about $800, $1,000, $1,200, $1,400 per acre depending on the improvements that were made on an individual farm. It should be $1,000 (per acre) if it is really good property,” said Mr. Love.

“I think everyone should request a reconsideration of their assessment (which is free),” stated Mr. Love. “If enough people fight this issue they (MPAC) will do something about it,” said Mr. Love. He explained the Killarney Cottagers Association did this and, “because of the number of complaints MPAC received they decreased their assessment for 2016. They listen when there is a large number of requests and people asking for reconsideration. number and people for reconsideration.”

“If sales are getting up to $3,000 (per acre) there is no land on the Island that can produce enough to pay for it,” continued Mr. Love.

Mr. Love noted that in the case of the Blue Goose sales of properties on the Island, “some paid too much for the property, around $2,000 (per acre), but most were in the $1,000-$1,200 per acre range.”

It was pointed out by Cathy Runnalls that most of the farmland on Manitoulin is classified as Class 3.

Real estate agent Scott McDougall said, “Class 3 farm properties should be going for $1,775 (per acre).” He said in looking back at some recent sales, the top numbers are in the $1,500 per acre range, but most are sold for less than that. He said that in the information he has accumulated the assessments on Manitoulin are higher than average-and what they should be.

“When I see values increase from $125,000 to $210,000 in two years, with no changes made on the property, that is a concern,” said one person at the meeting.

“I talked to a lawyer, and if you are not granted reconsideration on your property you can appeal this as a group to the assessment review board,” said Mr. Noland. He noted, however, as of January 1, 2017 there is a $300 fee appeal per property. “So the idea is to fight the reconsideration first.”

Bill Riach stated, “I’ve been listening to the same nonsense from them (MPAC) (on assessments) for years.”

MPAC answers to the Ministry of Finance, the meeting was told.

Mr. Noland explained that when farmland is taxed at 25 to 30 percent, a municipality has to increase its millrate because the dollars are not there. And when you add on the other type of costs municipalities don’t have control over, such as the DSB, policing and the Manor, residential property owners see a slight increase but farmlands see a huge increase.

Mr. Love noted that the Beef Farmers of Ontario are lobbying for agriculture zone properties to be changed from a maximum of 25 percent for 15 percent of value for farm property tax rate, while will be debated and considered at a meeting.

“We all need to appeal the numbers,” said Jim Anstice. He said most farmland property will see a 100-125 percent increase with the assessments.

Mr. Anstice said if municipal governments choose not to have agriculture zoned properties  reduced for the value for farm property tax rate, “there will be a shift of property tax burden onto farmland property owners. How much of an impact will depend on the increase in farmland values relative to other properties (residential, commercial, industrial).”

Using Burpee and Mills as an example, Mr. Anstice explained farmland assessment values have increased by 38 percent while residential values have decreased by 2.7 percent. Once new assessments are phased in, the increase in farm tax burden is as follows: 2016, 2.7 percent of the tax from farm; for 2017, three percent and increase of $1,605 in farm tax burden; 2018, 3.2 percent and an increase in farm tax burden of $3,201; 2019, 3.5 percent and $4,815; and for 2020, a 3.8 percent tax percentage from farm and an increase of $6,421 in farm tax burden.

“If MPAC doesn’t cooperate on the requests for reconsideration then we have to go to plan B and appeal,” said one person at the meeting.

To complete a request for reconsideration you need to complete an RfR form, which can be downloaded from mpac.ca Or you can call MPAC toll-free at 1-866-296-MPAC (6722) to request a RfR. You can also visit aboutmyproperty.ca. And you can write a letter requesting a review to MPAC at P.O. Box 9808, Toronto, On M1S 5T9.