GIFN PROPERTY TAX - Update May 2, 2018 From Keith Sandford President SICA
May 2, 2018
RE; PROPOSED GIFN PROPERTY TAX SYSTEM
Hello Fellow Islander’,
As most of you are aware, a meeting was held last Saturday (April 21st) in Sutton from 10:00am to 2:00pm with members from the Band.
The members were as follows;
Chief Donna BigCanoe, William (Bill) McCue, Sylvia McCue, Patricia BigCanoe, Janice Taylor, Stephanie BigCanoe
There were also two people from MPAC at the meeting to answer questions and explain the process.
I would like to thank those from the Island who were able to make it out to the meeting to hear what the Band had to say regarding this matter. There were 25 to 35 cottages represented from Snake Island which is quite good considering the short notice. There were also a handful of cottagers that showed up from Fox Island and a few from Georgina Island.
I did mention to the Band that we were not notified of the meeting by any Band member and explained to them how we actually found out about this meeting. I also explained that this was troubling. Bill did offer his apology on behalf of the Band to our members. Bill also explained that he has had a good relationship with the Executive of S.I.C.A. and he does not wish to see this diminish.
There was a lot of information taken in by both parties during the meeting and the Band did have hand outs which was basically the documents that we had shared via email, on the website and on Facebook.
I appreciate all the questions and comments – logged from the SICA membership. I will go through some of the facts that we learned at the meeting and hopefully, those comments and questions will be answered within the body of the text.
Refer to a copy of the “Introduction to the Proposed GIFN Property Tax System” which has been attached to this email, posted on the SICA website and on the Facebook page.
As is stated on page 3, GIFN does have the authority to enact a Tax Base System without debate by the Cottager’s Association. The Band did make it quite clear, they did give notice to the change and this open house meeting. This is true as they did post it on the Georgina Island website and at Eastpoint Marina. I mentioned that I have been cottaging on the Island for 35years and have never been on the Georgina website as I have no need to be there. I also mentioned that at this time of the year, early April, there are not many (if any) that would be in the office at Eastpoint. As mentioned earlier, they did apologize to us for not communicating this directly with us. Keeping in mind, the position of the Association was not to enter into negotiations with the Band on the matter, it was simply to try to achieve a fair result that would benefit us as Islander’s and keeping in the forefront with the needs of the Band to maintain the Island.
The Band could have approached this subject by stating, “here is the new way things are going to be moving forward”. They have decided to try and ease this system into place over the next 3 years. We did engage our Lawyer to review documentation including our Lease. He pointed out the following from our Lease.
Article 10 PAYMENT OF TAXES, LEVIES, SERVICE CHARGES AND FEES
The Lessee will pay and discharge all applicable taxes, rates, duties, and assesments of any kind including, without limitation, those described in Section 83 of the Indian Act (or any Successor Legislation), now charged or hereafter to be charged by any component authority upon the Lands or upon the Lessee or occupier in respect thereof or payable by either in respect thereof.
It is clear that the Band is well within their rights to enact this tax, service fee or any levy they so choose. I will point out that the Band when answering the questions being posed to them, did not ever say (to the effect) that’s how it is, take it or leave! The questions brought forth by many at the meeting was a matter of “fairness”! I believe that the Band heard this message loud and clear over and over again during the meeting.
You see, under this tax based system MPAC will be looking at basically 5 factors as was explained by one MPAC representative and they are; 1) square footage, 2) the lot itself (whether front or backlot) 3) quality of construction 4) age of the building construction and 5) geographic proximity from the mainland. They will take into consideration that our Island is recreational property and only available for 6 or 7 months of the year. Appeals will also apply to us should it be necessary as it is with your home. Other factors to be considered, rocky shoreline, steep slope, sandy bottom etc. MPAC will be looking for ‘comparable’ as they have none yet, in fact, MPAC has not even signed a contract with the Band at the time of the meeting.
The problem we have with this system is that the better you keep your cottage and the more buildings you have (square footage) the more you might pay in taxes. Thus, those cottagers who may not upkeep their property or the buildings (for their own personal reasons) would benefit by paying lower taxes. Paying taxes is to ensure services and it was pointed out quite clearly to the Band that the services that are provided to us are minimal (compared to mainland services) and that creating this divide seems highly unfair as we all receive the same services from the Band.
It was also stated at the meeting that the Band is losing revenue due to lateness in paying the fees or certain individuals not paying at all which includes the Lease payment. Having this tax would ensure the Band a method of collecting such revenue as well as late fees. However, it was pointed out that this was not necessarily true when it came to Snake Island as we all know, no payment, no parking sticker and Ed does seek out those who have not made payment.
So, lets talk about the services they are talking about in the information letter on the taxes and that which they provide. There is obviously the garbage pick up, the parking lot and the maintenance of the roads. The Band also pointed out that they do have members from various entities (including MNR) come on to the Island to look at the invasive species such as the dog strangling vine, there were ornithologists on the Island recently to study the different species of birds that occupy the Island. They have also stated that there have been people around to look at the shorelines for erosion and so forth. These are all items that should concern us all. The well being of the Island is not only the Band’s concern but should be ours as well as we are the ones using the land and hopefully will continue to do so for 7 generations! Not sure if you were aware of this fact or not, but each time 911 is contacted by any of the Islands, the Band must pay to the Township $600.00 per call. I’m not saying that this is a hardship on the Band, I’m just merely stating it is a cost and a fact.
So, where does all this leave us? It was discussed at length that if the Band is enacting this tax base system because it is having a hard time with its revenue, that perhaps, this is not the solution. Since we, the cottagers do not wish to see inequity in payments to the services that are provided, perhaps a better system would be (if necessary) an increase to the service fee. This way, everyone would share the rates for the same services provided. The consensus at the meeting from cottagers was exactly that. Fairness! If paying a little more helps in their revenue stream through a service fee increase and provided the roads are better maintained, most people would not be opposed to an increase. (This is information I received from the comments and questions)
The tax base would make it harder to sell the cottage as the Lease diminishes over the next 22 years. One of the joys (if you can call it that) of owning on the Island is not having to pay taxes. This too was pointed out to the Band in great detail during the meeting. I think that the cottage members in attendance did an excellent job at getting all our points and concerns across to the Band. The Band treated all questions with respect as did all our cottagers with their questions and comments.
In closing, I have asked if a member of the Band and the representative from MPAC would please come to the Island and have another information session if they were to move forward with this proposed Tax System. The Association will be sending a letter to the Band this week outlining its concerns formally in writing. This will be sent out in an email, posted on Facebook and on the SICA website. This may not have answered all the questions or concerns you had but there are still more facts to obtain from the Band and I commit to working with the Band to achieve a result that is fair for all.
We are using First Nations’ Land folks and they have allowed us the privilege of sharing this beautiful Island we call our own! It is imperative that we continue with the positive relationship we currently share with the Band. Let’s not ever forget the fact that we are the lucky ones with a cottage so close to the City. I know that some of you may not share the same sentiment as I/we do, but it is a matter of mutual respect and understanding that will guide us.
Keith R. Sandford
Snake Island Cottagers Association