Nfld. & Labrador

Over 65 in Appleton? Property tax break scrapped as population ages

The central Newfoundland community of Appleton is cancelling a tax break for seniors because it says the growing number of seniors is making the discount too costly.

Discount would have cost small town $10K in deferred taxes, mayor says

The Town of Appleton is eliminating its seniors' tax discount. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

The central Newfoundland community of Appleton is cancelling a tax break for seniors because of the town's aging population. 

Until this year, anyone in the town age 65 or older got a 10 per cent break on their property taxes.

But Garrett Watton, the mayor of Appleton, says the growing number of seniors is becoming too costly for the town, which had already recently raised taxes.

"A few years ago when I started this position as mayor, for our town, it equated to about $6,200 in deferred taxes with the discount, and this year it's over $10,000," he said.

"The last census we had, the data showed the population was gonna be aging. Fifty per cent of the population would be reaching 65 or older in the next five years."

Watton said some other communities that offer the discount, like Deer Lake or Holyrood, likely have a large enough tax base to offset the cost. Appleton has just 574 people, according to the 2016 census.

"For Appleton, we do have businesses, but it just doesn't cover off enough," he said.

"You're looking at one-half of the population having to compensate for the discount for the other half."

'Pulling off a Band-Aid'

But Watton said it wasn't an easy decision to make.

"It was kinda like pulling off a Band-Aid, that at some point you're gonna have to do it, and maybe it was better to pluck the Band-Aid off than do it slowly," he said. 

The decision was made even more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic, Watton said, as businesses were hit with the second wave and a mine closure in Glenwood and layoffs at Nav Canada in Gander left people in the town out of work.

The mayor said some are disappointed with the decision, but he said the town hasn't heard too much negative feedback. 

Appleton Mayor Garrett Watton says keeping the tax break would have half of the community compensating for the discount for the other half. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

The discount would have been about $100 for an average bungalow in Appleton, and he expects most people will be able to pay it. He urged anyone who won't be able to afford the increase to call the town so a solution can be found.

When the pandemic is over, Watton said, the town might be able to introduce a discount based on income rather than age.

"It's one of those things that we'd like to keep going and maybe, perhaps, next year or the year after, we might be able to reintroduce something," he said.

"That would help young families and struggling families as well, not just seniors."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go

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