Stormont County Farmers Balk at Paying Education Taxes

The Leamington Post and News for tells of a tax protest in Stormont County, Ontario:

Stormont farmers refuse to pay education taxes in campaign of OFA

Fifteen Stormont County property-owners refused to pay their education taxes last week.

First, they gathered outside Mr. Arnott Empey’s office in the town of Berwick. Mr. Empey is Clerk of Finch Township.

Then, one at a time, they entered his office and handed him a cheque. Their cheques covered only the township and county portion of their property taxes. All fifteen property-owners, most of them farmers, refused to pay the education portion.

Said Mr. Empey, “I guess they withheld about $5,000 altogether. The biggest single amount withheld on a bill was $300, although one businessman who had seven separate tax bills withheld a total of about $1,100.[”]

Mr. Empey added, “It doesn’t really matter to me if they withhold or not. I just treat it as a partial payment.”

The Stormont county demonstration was just one of the many that property-owners have organized to publicize their plight.

Leader in the campaign, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, one of the most active farm organizations in the province, is urging all property-owners to withhold the education portion of their taxes as a protest against the present system of education taxation.

The provincial government now pays 51% of the education tax bill. Property-owners must pay the balance in their municipal taxes.

The President of the farmers’ organization, Gordon Hill, has travelled the province extensively, speaking at meetings, urging the support of all property-owners. At a recent meeting at Delhi in Norfolk county, 400 property-owners attended a meeting to hear him speak. There was almost unanimous support for the stand taken by the OFA.

At another meeting of 300 farmers at Markdale in Grey County, about 75% indicated they would withhold the education portion of their property taxes.

The withholding program of the OFA is an effort to hurt local municipalities and school boards, Mr. Hill points out. It is intended to demonstrate the discontent that exists among property-owners.

The OFA set , as its deadline for the government. It said that if the government hadn’t made any concessions by that day, then it would urge all property-owners to withhold the education portion of their taxes.

The government didn’t grant any concessions.

So on , Mr. Hill urged property-owners to join with him in withholding.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture believes that the property tax is not a fair way to finance education. It demands that the provincial government finance education on an ability-to-pay basis.

A survey conducted by the OFA in Lennox and Addington county illustrates the reasons for their concern.

The farmers surveyed paid an average of $654, education tax on their property, while urban residents surveyed paid an average of only $233, [a] doctor paid $407, a lawyer [paid] $364, and a high school teacher paid $198.

Mr. Hill points out that [the] average income of the urbanites surveyed was considerably higher than that of the farmers.

Other statistics provided [by] the OFA show that education taxes on property have climbed at a much higher [rate] than farmers’ incomes.

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