My Side of the Fence

Return on my Property Tax

  • Peter de Jong, Author
  • Dairy Farmer, Southeastern Manitoba

Like every other property owner, we pay property taxes. As farmers, we like to see a return on our property to pay the taxes. By this I mean we need a crop from our land which we can harvest and sell or feed our animals.

We see a trend that the Rural Municipalities; the money received to maintain the roads and the ditches are in default to properly cleaned municipal ditches. Trees are growing in the ditches and under hydro lines, creating less farmable land for our crops and lower return per acre. Trees that grow in these areas create power outages and power surges which on a regular basis, blowing up the computers for our equipment in the barns. Where is the responsibility of our municipalities to maintain the roads and keep the ditches clean of trees and long grass? The rural municipalities have the right to sell your property if you don’t pay your taxes. However, if they are irresponsible in keeping the ditches clear, we as farmers do not have a crop and that means we don’t have an income. How can we pay the taxes?

Over the years, many farmers have quit, left the land and sought employment elsewhere simply because people are tired of their land getting flooded due to the lack of maintenance of the provincial drains. Without pointing a finger, instead of looking for solutions, we live in a society where the public servants do not want to take responsibility, keep raising taxes year after year, until there are no farmers left. The budget will be shorted to maintain the roads, even for residents. Evidently they will be moving away.

Besides municipal taxes, farmers also pay school taxes. They are going up every year. If the municipal and provincial authorities in Manitoba do not maintain the roads, the lack thereof transfer to higher maintenance on the school buses. Which in turn, drive up costs to which the school divisions have to raise the tax levy.

To be clear, the rural municipalities have to come up with a better plan, to maintain the roads and the ditches. Eliminate the standing water and the roads will not be so soft in Spring. Instead of placing band-aids on small repairs, a five year plan to clean all ditches from trees and rocks, maintaining the roads at the same time and work with Manitoba Hydro will be much more cost effective. A good example of how not to do it, is on Loewen Blvd, where $550,000 was paid out for a one mile stretch. After only two short years, the road is totally shot, the black liner has surfaced, all due to the poor drainage of the said ditches.

What we receive in exchange for our property taxes, has to be reviewed. Leave the PST at 8%, eliminate the school taxes on the properties; the extra PST money can go to schools and eliminate another layer of bureaucracy. It seems that the increase of PST never reaches the roads, where the needs are. We paying for maintaining the ditches and the roads, but the follow up is not in place with the mandate.

That is why we need to see changes in how our property taxes are spent. The money the property owner pays has to come back to his property area and not invested for new developments. The developers should be responsible for the infra-structure, building water retention areas, to release the water slowly after large rainfalls and not flood the farmer’s land beside it.