Tax credit for Winnipeggers without water on chopping block
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A Winnipegger hopes the city will erase what he deems a “quiet money grab” before the 2023 budget is finalized.
By contrast, some city officials say the change would spread the tax burden more fairly among all residents.
Until now, Mike Maskell has received a $250 annual tax credit for his Charleswood home because it isn’t connected to city water and sewer services. The credit applied to 1,095 eligible houses in 2022.
“I see it as a way of somewhat appeasing the residents… to recognize and acknowledge that we don’t have water, we have to truck it in… and that’s a fairly costly endeavour to maintain,” said Maskell.
The 2023 draft budget proposes to end the tax credit. Maskell said residents weren’t warned about it.
“It’s kind of a quiet grab of my money out of my pocket. I don’t like that. I don’t like the way the city’s doing it,” said Maskell.
”It’s kind of a quiet grab of my money out of my pocket. I don’t like that.”–Mike Maskell
He discovered the tax credit was in line to be eliminated when he asked the city to raise it from $250 to $350 to reflect the rising cost of hauling in water, which he estimates costs him about $60 per month.
While lots such as his are exempt from frontage fees, Maskell believes the tax credit is still meaningful to those who receive it.
However, the city says the lack of frontage fees and other tax breaks mean compensation for the lack of city services will continue for the affected homeowners even if the “unserviced residential premises tax credit” ends.
“The fact that a given property may not have access to certain city services, such as water and sewer services, is incorporated in the assessed value of the property and is therefore reflected in their property taxes before consideration of this tax credit,” said city spokesman Kalen Qually, in an emailed statement.
Qually said it would cost the city roughly $300,000 to keep the credit in place this year.
”Nobody wants to pay more taxes. This is just, perhaps, a way we were looking to make things a little bit more equitable.”–Coun. Jeff Browaty
Coun. Jeff Browaty, council’s finance chairman, said he agrees residents who don’t have water and sewer service are compensated beyond the credit itself.
“Your assessed value already reflects the fact that you do not have access to water and sewer for these 1,095 residential properties. You also don’t pay the frontage levy,” said Browaty.
The councillor noted those properties won’t be subject to the frontage fee hike of $1.50 per foot other taxpayers expect to pay this year, though they will benefit from the road improvements that revenue funds. For that reason, he said ending the tax credit is fair.
“Nobody wants to pay more taxes. This is just, perhaps, a way we were looking to make things a little bit more equitable,” said Browaty.
However, at least one councillor shares the concern that the credit could end with little public warning.
Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood Coun. Evan Duncan said he’ll try to convince council to keep the tax credit for another year.
Duncan said he agrees with Browaty’s thoughts on taxpayer equity but believes more consultation is needed.
“It comes back to that community consultation piece. I don’t want to pull the rug out from residents who do rely on this,” he said.
Browaty said the delay will be considered.
Council will vote on its final budget on March 22.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.
Updated on Thursday, March 16, 2023 4:27 PM CDT: Updates with fresh art
Updated on Friday, March 17, 2023 6:17 PM CDT: Updates quote from Maskell