SCRAM REPORTS … the battle continues

SCRAM REPORTS … the battle continues

By David Blair, Chairman, Simcoe County Residents Against market Value Reassessment (Director of the Federation)

Since its inception in April, 1995, a grass roots organization, Simcoe County Residents Against Market Value Reassessment (SCRAM) has carried out a well planned and incessant campaign to arouse all the municipal councillors in Simcoe County to the disastrous consequences of MVA. Anticipating the burdensome affects of increased municipal taxes on the residential property owners, SCRAM researched and developed a detailed publication describing the effect that would result from accepting the recommendation in the now published IMPACT STUDY produced by the Ministry of Finance of Ontario (Barrie office). (see an analysis of the Impact Study page 1)

The task of persuading 15 municipalities to Vote “No” to the proposal has been an uphill one from the start. At the time of its organization, SCRAM knew that only Tiny, the 16th municipality, was already committed to oppose county-wide market value reassessment.

In sampling other municipalities’ awareness of what county-wide MVA reassessment was all about, SCRAM was distressed to find that no one else outside of Tiny knew much or anything about the pending tax disaster that would befall the majority of residential taxpayers if county-wide market value reassessment, as proposed, was slipped past the electorate in Simcoe.

The task before this fledgling organization of volunteers was a formidable one. All municipal councillors were the primary target. Education was the key. Communication was the mode. Determination was the stance.

Meetings & Telephoning… Faxes & Letters Several well structured information meetings were held for ratepayers’ groups across the County. Through numerous telephone calls, many faxes, information and ideas were exchanged with key participants within and outside the County.

Guest speakers were sent to meetings in the townships of Severn, Ramara, Springwater, Collingwood and Oro-Medonte and the towns of Penetanguishene and Midland. Active contact was made with key personalities who oppose MVA in the District of Muskoka, the Region of Halton-Peel and Hastings County.

Local MPPs Keyed MPPs with their ridings in Simcoe County were written to and met with to seek their support. Every Conservative MPP in Ontario was contacted by letter.

Simcoe County MPPs provided the following quotes supporting SCRAM’s convictions:

Hon. Al McLean, MPP (Simcoe East, P.C.), responding to the concerns of SCRAM, in a letter to the Minister of Finance, The Honourable Ernie Eves, wrote: “Premier Mike Harris has indicated his government will review all alternatives to Market Value Assessment to determine if a different assessment system would be fairer and have a more positive influence on economic development. … I urge you to place an immediate moratorium on the implementation of any further Market Value Assessment in the Province of Ontario until the government has completed the review.”

Bill Grimmett, MPP (Muskoka-Georgian Bay, P.C.): “There is need for a simpler, more uniform system across the Province. The present system of Market Value Assessment is not working in Muskoka and it should be changed.”

Joe Tascona, MPP (Simcoe Centre, PC): “Under the direction of Premier Mike Harris, the new government is committed to tax reform based on fairness and effectiveness. I recognize Market Value Assessment does not appear to be working effectively, and am in agreement that there should be a moratorium on any further implementation of such systems until the government has completed its review of alternative methods.”

By the end of July, every member of every municipal Council in Simcoe County had received SCRAM’s “Information Booklet, revised and updated to July 24, 1995,” along with the local MPP’s quotes.

Focus on the Media Coincident to all this action, the Media (television, radio and newspaper) were mailed a package advising them that the Assessment Commissioner would be presenting the Proposed Countywide Market Value Reassessment of Simcoe County Impact Study Report to Simcoe County Council on August 15, 1995. SCRAM asked the media to attend this presentation and they did. Over 400 concerned residents of Simcoe County attended the meeting. CKVR (Barrie TV), several radio stations and over a dozen newspapers conducted interviews and helped to spread the public’s unhappy reaction.

Early in September, SCRAM mailed “A Councillor’s MVA Survival Kit” to every member of every municipal council in Simcoe County plus Barrie and Orillia.

The 50 page document reminded members of council of the grave responsibility they hold in making their decision and the potential voter backlash of voting YES to accepting MVA reassessment.

Included in the text were four pages of quotes, most by Simcoe residents reflecting the serious and negative aspects of MVA. Ten Questions of political importance followed. Questions that incumbent councillors should ask himself or herself if planning on being re-elected. Next were four pages of Political Options and MVA highlights. The final section was 35 pages of County-wide press clippings.

We are confident the document got the attention of the County Councillors. We may be hitting “pay dirt” from some of the reactions we have encountered.

Pro MVA Warden and Council Minions Stonewall SCRAM In a democracy, when some politicians won’t listen to the people, something is wrong. When an agenda appears to be attached to their refusal, things go beyond arrogance and pass into the realm of ‘What’s Going On?’

Here’s what’s gone on SCRAM has made repeated attempts to present a deputation to County Council regarding the downsides and alternatives to county-wide market value reassessment. Each time, we have been either put off or ‘sandbagged’ by the Warden and her staff. Our urgent appeal for our primary date – Tuesday, September 26, 1995 was denied.

SCRAM has finally been granted permission to make a deputation on October 31, 1995 – the day of the MVA vote. Obviously, at that time, our ability to influence this critical tax decision will be rendered largely irrelevant. Most County Councillors will be bound by the earlier MVA vote of their local councils.

At the September 26, 1995 County Council meeting, despite repeated efforts by Tiny’s Mayor Anthony Lancia, Deputy Mayor Bill Duffy of Ramara and several other County Councillors speaking in their support, SCRAM, for the second time, was denied an opportunity to present their views on MVA by a vote of 13-11. (8 absentees)

Take a Look at the Facts • Our freedom of information request to the Ministry of Finance for working papers was answered by a near ransom demand for $21,000. It can be provided on disk for a fraction of the cost. The Ministry refused! ‘What’s Going On?’ • Civil servants pushing MVA like hucksters. • Ratepayers repeatedly sandbagged, stonewalled and scuppered.

This is yet another example of ‘hold your nose and ram it through politics’. By and large, the electorate has yet to get their wake-up call.

Hopeful Signs: An analysis by the Severn River Association of Property Owners, relating the voting count to County and tax increases, bears repeating here:

“With FULL MVA, 10 townships would see overall tax increases. These 10 municipalities would have 68 of the 108 votes at County.

With FACTORED MVA, 13 municipalities would see overall tax increases. These 13 municipalities would have 85 of the 108 votes at County.

In both cases the municipalities facing overall increase taxes would have sufficient majority to defeat MVA by a simple or weighted vote.”

To date:

* Ramara Township Council voted NO to both forms of county-wide Market Value Reassessment. * Severn Township Council voted NO to both forms of county-wide Market Value Reassessment. * Bradford-West Gwillimbury Township Council voted NO to both forms of county-wide MVA and requested a municipal-wide reassessment of their own municipality.

* Essa Township Council voted YES to county-wide Factored Market Value Reassessment and will reconsider its decision if Barrie or Orillia opt out. * New Tecumseth Town Council voted YES to county-wide Factored Market Value Reassessment. (This is the Warden’s home turf.) * Clearview Township Council voted NO to county-wide Full MVA if either Barrie and Orillia opt in.

* Innisfil Town Council voted NO to county-wide Full MVA if either Barrie and Orillia opt in. * Collingwood Town Council voted NO to county-wide Full MVA if either Barrie and Orillia opt in.

Your support is needed at County Council, Midhurst Administration Centre, Tuesday, October 31, 1995 at 9:30 a.m. Please be there.