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LETTER: Is it really about the bag of garbage at the Cabin?

Simply put, the Eastern Regional Service Board (ERSB) doesn’t like taking people to court to collect waste fees; however, that is the only option given the Board, other than turning a blind eye to those who do not pay thus increasing the cost to everyone else. Furthermore, the attitude of “I’ll pay when you catch me” and then claim I didn’t know is unacceptable.

The ERSB has long suggested that all regional service boards be given the same authority as municipalities, which is the ability to lien a property for unpaid fees and collect if/when that property is sold. This would reduce the burden on the courts and allow service boards to better deal with genuine hardship cases.

The suggestion ERSB is charging “properties that are inaccessible most of the year” is generally, factually incorrect and spun by those who do not want to pay their fair share. The secondary homes ERSB services are no different than any house in any other community in the province. Some of these properties are in unincorporated areas and others are in “cabin” country.

A regular argument is “I only use it in the summer.”

So what? If that property is in a municipality versus a Local Service District, unincorporated area or cabin area, you would pay the full property tax. Most of us don’t use all services offered within our community but we don’t get or expect an adjustment.

Why should a “cabin” advertised as 45 minutes from St. John’s, renting for $1,800 a month, three bedrooms, 2½ bathrooms, ensuite with Jacuzzi tub, internet, access year-round, pays no property tax, no fire protection fees — yet complains about waste collection fees?  

Just recently it was newsworthy that a second property owner in an incorporated area with a paved road maintained and snow plowed year round by the province pays absolutely no tax (a luxury item for the majority of us) has to pay for garbage collection. That property generates waste — regular garbage, bulk items and household hazardous waste items. Why should the rest of us subsidize this property owner?

As a judge said recently — “if you can afford a second property you can afford to pay the annual waste fees of $180.”

The Tax Review Report released by the province’s Department of Finance concluded the following: “For equity and fairness reasons, the province should consider implementing a provincial property tax, one similar to provincial property taxes in other provinces. The goal is to have property owners pay at least a minimum property tax on all properties in the province.” Again, simply put — Pay your Fair Share.

This report and the Auditor General agreed on one fact — the province has a spending problem.  Providing properties with essential services such as waste collection, fire protection, snow clearing, and road maintenance without charging any taxes is not fair and equitable to the rest of us. Someone pays for the service — why not the property owner?

We requested that government study the way services are funded in unincorporated areas to ensure everyone pays a fair share. A review of the Provincial Waste Management Strategy was recently announced.

The Office of the Citizens’ Representative, the Independent Tax Review Committee and various Ministers of Municipal Affairs and Environment are all on record agreeing local policy decisions are best made by those that are locally elected.

The ERSB has twenty municipal politicians all elected within their communities to provide leadership within this region of 270,000 residents. It is interesting these same people make decisions about hundreds of millions in spending in their communities, but when it comes to this issue these same 20 municipal politicians “got it all wrong.:” I don’t think so.

So, again I ask, is this discussion really about a bag of garbage, or is this really about all property owners in the province paying property taxes and fees for the services they benefit from.  For too long this whole discussion has been dominated by those looking to avoid paying for service at the expense of the Province and the rest of us.

Fairness and equity demands everyone pay their fair share so the rest of us are not paying more.

Ed Grant

Chairperson, Eastern Regional Service Board

Related story:

LETTER: Cabin owners still treated unfairly

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