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Taxpayer’s compensation request for reduced services considered ‘an unfortunate perspective’

Greater Napanee Town Council met virtually on Zoom for their meeting on Tuesday, Apr. 27, 2021.

After little to no discussion, Greater Napanee council moved not to compensate a taxpayer seeking rebates for lessened services over the past year.

An email from a Greater Napanee resident appeared in section 7.2 of the regular council meeting agenda on Tuesday, Apr. 27, 2021. It was also brought up during CAO Ray Callery’s updates, under 10.5 of the agenda.

Though the complete email chain (or other communication) is not attached to the agenda package, it appears that either Mayor Marg Isbester, or someone acting on her behalf, requested that a resident pay his tax bill in full. The resident’s email response is shown, dated Tuesday, Apr. 20, 2021, explaining that he feels he should not be required to pay the full tax bill during a time in which services were lessened, or completely shut down, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mrs. Isbester, I will be paying the interim tax bill today. But before paying the final bill, which will arrive in June, I would like to know how Greater Napanee citizens will be compensated, tax-wise, for the great lessinging (sic) of some services, and stopping of others, which have occurred since March 2020. I will be expecting some kind of rebate from the final tax bill regarding: schools, recreation, parks, libraries, services for the disabled, hospitals, courts, festivals – just to name a few,” the email reads.

CAO Ray Callery provided a report to council that drew attention to the fact that many of the listed services are not funded through Greater Napanee’s municipal budget, which can be read in his report, section 10.5 of the council agenda.

During the public Council meeting, members of Council and staff did not discuss how to address the miscommunication, or whether an explanation would be delivered to the resident or other concerned citizens. The only member of Council to speak on the topic was Deputy Mayor Max Kaiser.

“It’s an unfortunate perspective. And I think really, this letter reads generally to the frustration of life on hold during the pandemic more than anything else,” Kaiser said.

“Of course, a lot of the things he listed are not municipal – they exist either at the County, [the provincial Ministry of] education or higher (federal),” Kaiser also said. However, this comment lends itself to the assumption that taxes and budgets – whether they be municipal, provincial, federal, or other – are common knowledge to all taxpayers.

CAO Ray Callery’s report to Council states that, though some municipal services were limited or closed, other fees were waived in order to offset the burden to taxpayers. He explained that the municipality “actually incurred in lost revenue” over the past year due to not being able to provide its usual services.

“Parks, playgrounds, sports fields, ice surfaces, hall rentals, boat launches and offices were closed to the public. The Town not knowing the full economic impact on the local economy also waived landfill fees, garbage tag fees, tenant rents, interest on utility bills, and tax payment interest. All other municipal services were provided,” the report states.

“Although some savings were achieved from the closure of the SPC (Strathcona Paper Centre), a great deal of additional operational costs were incurred from new PPE, health and safety building upgrades, and the actual closure of outdoor facilities,” Callery’s report reads.

“For the majority of the pandemic, all services have been continued by the municipality. Services where reductions took place, such as ice rentals, some building inspections, and utility installations, are funded from user charges and therefor (sic) not a reduction to base property taxation. Unfortunately, the provision of most services required one time or some ongoing increase of costs to keep the staff and public safe.

“Schools, Hospitals, Social Services and other social housing programs are not funded from the budget of Greater Napanee, and therefor (sic) the Town cannot comment on these operations,” Callery’s report concludes.

The report points out other ways in which the Town “had no savings” such as ice usage at the Strathcona Paper Centre and continued maintenance and monitoring of sports fields.

“I don’t really have anything further to add to this (report), unless council has any questions for me,” Callery said. Council did not have any questions, comments or discussion regarding this taxpayer’s email. Staff was not instructed during the meeting to follow up or clarify the concern with the resident.

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