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Lac du Bonnet set to lead cottage country tax revolt

Jim Mosher

Precipitous assessment increases in resort communities on Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba and the Winnipeg River will result in seasonal property owners carrying a disproportionate share of the municipal and school tax load, as values of summer properties near waterways have risen faster than the average provincial rate. That's created a skew that Lac du Bonnet, on the Winnipeg River, wants addressed by the provincial government.

RM of Lac du Bonnet council is calling upon Manitoba municipalities to support its bid to rejig the tax system so there is more equity built in.

Ninety-five per cent of RM of Lac du Bonnet property owners are seasonal. Overall, the average assessment increase is about 70 per cent in the RM. The overall provincial increase is 46 per cent. Seasonal property owners pay education tax, though they do not receive the provincial education tax credit of $650 nor can they vote for trustees.

Assessment in Dunnottar rose an average 67 per cent, with lakefront properties well above the average.

The RM of Lac du Bonnet's letter was considered by Dunnottar council at the village's regular meeting Wednesday.

"You end up with a disproportionate amount of school taxes in resort communities because they have higher assessments," explained Dunnottar chief administrative officer Janice Thevenot.

Dunnottar Coun. Bob Campbell, while sympathetic to Lac du Bonnet's call to arms, noted that the RM had nothing to offer as an alternative to the current system of taxation, which is tied inextricably to the assessed value of property. He acknowledged there are disparities, particularly in Winnipeg, where some school divisions benefit from an enriched tax base due to large commercial and residential developments. However he wasn't sure Lac du Bonnet's argument had much weight without offering an alternative.

"It'd be better if they had something to offer, where they figured out where the money should come from," Campbell said.

"It's not that we don't support school tax," said Mayor Rick Gamble. "It's just that we pay a big whack of school taxes. A lot of our taxpayers cannot vote for a school trustee. I don't think that's quite right."

Lac du Bonnet is seeking the support of councils of resort communities to create a lobby group to petition the provincial government for a better tax shake. Dunnottar council approved supporting the initiative, with Campbell the lone councillor in opposition.

Gimli council considered joining the Lac du Bonnet, but did not frame a resolution of support when the matter arose Wednesday evening.

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