A representative of the local farm community wants to see County of Brant council lower the tax rate levied on arable land owners across the municipality next year.
Sandra Vos, past-president of the Brant County Federation of Agriculture, said during a recent presentation to county councillors that the municipality should consider setting the farm class tax rate at less than 25 per cent of the residential class in its 2013 budget.
"All we are asking for is consideration in your budget deliberations," Vos said. "We're being proactive in asking for consideration now. Other municipalities have reduced the rate to 20 per cent (of the residential class), such as Hamilton, Halton Region and Durham."
Vos said, according to numbers from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, the value of farm properties in Brant have increased by an average of 63.75 per cent since 2007.
"Some farmland property increased higher than this value," Vos said. "This is great for the county, but not so great for the farmers. For our residents who appreciate farmland surrounding their homes, supporting a very small part of this very large farm rate increase would be welcomed by the farmers of Brant County."
Higher taxes levied on the county's approximately 600 farm owners could impact the success of local producers," Vos said.
"The goal to save farmland and increase agribusiness opportunities becomes more difficult if property tax payments for the next four years are a burden," Vos said. "The desire to sell land may become a reality for farmland owners with poor return on investment."
Coun. Robert Chambers said council needs to see a staff report before taking a position on potentially lowering the farm class tax rate.
"I think it has to be taken into context with the budget," Chambers said. "I recognize that the agricultural community will be impacted greatly and perhaps unfairly by the increase in assessment. I would be interested in looking at any and all ways to lessen this impact.
"We have to look at the entire budget before making a decision."
County of Brant Mayor Ron Eddy said Vos made a valid request, but more information is needed.
"We need to have a report on all assessment, what it means and what affect it has on the budget," Eddy said.
Vos suggested two financial transfer scenarios for lowering the farm class tax rate for council's consideration. The matter was referred to staff to produce a report that will be included in the municipality's budget deliberations.