Councillors waiting to lose tax exemption
SEAN CHASE/DAILY OBSERVER Renfrew County Council is comprised of the mayors and reeves who lead the county's 17 member municipalities. The County of Renfrew was established in 1861.
Renfrew County councillors are still waiting to hear how the federal government plans to eliminate a tax exemption on a third of their remuneration.
When he brought down the budget in the spring, finance minister Bill Morneau scaled back the exemption by merging them with income although specific employment expenses, filed with receipts, will remain non-taxable. However, local mayors and councillors continue to speculate on when the measures will be put into place.
“We need to get some direction,” Arnprior Reeve Walter Stack told his County council colleagues Wednesday.
The impending federal measure affects elected members of provincial and territorial legislatures, as well as municipalities. Elected officials of municipal utilities boards, commissions and corporations will also be subject to the rule, as will members of school boards.
Stack renewed his argument that rural councillors don't make the same income as a large city councillor, who also has an office and staff at their disposal. Other councillors contend that the current excemption helps to cover mileage, telephone, Internet use and other expenses not always compensated fully in remuneration.
“In smaller or rural municipalies like the County of Renfrew it's as much a volunteer role as it is a paid role,” added Stack. “There should be a significant consideration for the size of a municipality. There should be some distinction there.”
Recently the Association of Municipalies of Ontario (AMO) completed a survey to help them understand the scope of impact on municipal budgets of moving from one-third tax exemption. The survey concluded that the majority of municipal governments in Ontario use the one-third exemption and that there will be new costs to switching to fully taxable municipal remuneration.
AMO will be working with similar organizations in other provinces to lobby the federal government to drop their plans. Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon, who represents the county at AMO, said the regulations haven't been tabled yet.
“A cynical person might suggest the federal government is hoping they can just not implement it and everybody will trip merrily along,” said Emon. “I think they are trying to negotiate their way out of it.”