PEI

P.E.I. seasonal residents' group 'frustrated' by higher property taxes

As many of P.E.I.'s seasonal residents gear up to come back to the Island this summer, some are feeling frustrated about rising property taxes in certain communities. 

Focus is on services for year-round residents, says Three Rivers mayor

P.E.I. seasonal resident Robert Vincent on the beach near his cottage in the Launching area of the Island. He says the rise in property taxes for non-residents 'sends a very alienating message.' (Submitted by Robert Vincent)

As many of P.E.I.'s seasonal residents gear up to come back to the Island this summer, some are feeling frustrated about rising property taxes in certain communities. 

In its March budget, the town of Three Rivers in eastern P.E.I. raised property taxes for non-residents so they are now double what residents pay. 

"It's a bit hurtful, frankly," said Robert Vincent, who lives in Montreal but owns a cottage in the Launching area near Cardigan, which is part of Three Rivers. 

"It sends a message that … 'We don't have to worry about your votes, but hey, we'd be happy to have more of your money,'" he said. 

Three Rivers mayor Ed MacAulay says the decision to raise taxes for non-residents was necessary to balance the budget this year. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Three Rivers mayor Ed MacAulay said the decision to double the tax rate for non-residents was not an easy one, but the town needed to find a way to make up a funding shortfall. 

"The only viable decision we thought we could make without raising the residential tax rate was to look at doubling the tax rate for non-resident folks," said MacAulay. 

This was the first year the town didn't receive transitional funding from the province, which it has gotten every year since amalgamation in 2018. 

We have to do what we can to make sure that we provide services year-round.— Three Rivers mayor Ed MacAulay

A memorandum of understanding signed during amalgamation prevents a tax hike for year-round residents. 

MacAulay said he's heard from family members of seasonal residents about the tax rate change who are upset and see this as discrimination. 

"I can appreciate people's unhappiness with it," said MacAulay. 

"But we have to do what we can to make sure that we provide services year-round for the people that are here year-round." 

Three Rivers is the latest municipality on P.E.I. to raise taxes for non-residents. Tax rates are also higher in Stratford, Cornwall and Charlottetown. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Non-residents of P.E.I. already pay more provincial tax than residents, at $1.50 per $100 of assessed property value rather than $1. 

The Seasonal Residents of P.E.I. Association wants Islanders to know about the tax change in Three Rivers, and that non-residents also pay higher municipal taxes in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall. 

"Those who are in those areas are frustrated, because obviously seasonal residents have no recourse. There's no voting rights, for obvious reasons," said association president Jen Harding. 

"There's this sense that the seasonal residents are an easy target for municipalities to cover funding shortfalls like Three Rivers did." 

'I have no idea where this ends'

Harding said association members are concerned that other municipalities could follow Three Rivers' lead and also raise taxes for non-residents. 

Vincent, who also sits on the association's board, said despite the increase, his tax bill still won't be particularly high, since his property is in a rural area with fewer services. 

So although it won't have a financial impact on him, Vincent shares Harding's concern. 

"I have no idea where this ends," he said. "I can't claim that I would be shocked if other municipalities say, 'Hey, what a great idea. Let's copy this.'"

Harding said the association isn't planning to officially challenge the tax increase, but she hopes the Island's municipal councils look to other ways of balancing their budgets in the future.

"I would just hope … they really look at all the options and consider any potential unintended consequences," said Harding. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Isabelle Gallant is a radio producer and web writer who has worked for CBC in Edmonton and Toronto. She grew up in Halifax and Charlottetown and is happy to be back home on P.E.I.

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