Tax increase of 300 per cent angers Happy Valley-Goose Bay seniors

A group of outraged senior citizens filled the council chambers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Tuesday night to protest the town's increase in taxes.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay resident Wilbur Patey says he has health problems and large medical bills. (CBC)

A group of outraged seniors filled the council chambers in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Tuesday night to protest higher municipal taxes.

About 100 seniors said they were not happy that the town has increased taxes — in some cases by several hundred per cent.

"300 per cent — 300 per cent. Can you imagine what impact that has on this town?" senior Wilbur Patey said.

"This house, when it's assessed next time, it's going to be up at a higher bracket, therefore I got to pay more taxes because I'm staying in my own home. So, I don't think it's fair, and I think the council should look at it and reconsider what they've done to the senior citizens, okay?" 

Patey, 73, wasn't alone in his frustration, with many seniors taking potshots at council members.

Rupert Dawe inquired why no one has asked the public's opinion on the increase.

"To do it without consultation is insulting, Sir," he said. 

300 per cent — 300 per cent. Can you imagine what impact that has on this town?- Wilbur Patey, concerned senior citizen 

The town maintains it didn't set out to harm seniors. 

In the past, seniors enjoyed a property tax discount of 75 per cent, but the town has discontinued the practice.

Council said now the reduced rates are only offered for the lowest-income brackets, regardless of age.

"You'd help the seniors anyway you could, and you'd go to bat for them, and you've turned your back on us and we don't like that and that's not very good as a council," Patey said.  

Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Jamie Snook. (CBC)
Mayor Jamie Snook defended the move and said it's the price of growth.

"This is one of the biggest decisions the town council has made in a long, long time," said Snook.

"At some point, people have to pay their property taxes equally and fairly to everyone in town. It's a very basic principle the whole council supports. There are people that have very high incomes and very big properties and they were getting a 75 per cent discount for decades, and it can't be rationalized in that context. So, for some of the arguments that people have made in this debate, we're going to have to respectfully disagree on some points." 

Council said anyone of any age who is in a hardship situation can apply for tax exemptions, under the Municipalities Act. The town will also be open to reviewing individual cases.