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Unfair school tax levied on cottages
Jul 03, 2008

Cottage owners pay school taxes, but they are unable to send their children to cottage country schools and they cannot vote for trustees, as a cottage is only recognized as a secondary residence. 

However, they still have the burden of paying the same amount of school taxes as permanent residents based on the assessed value of a property. Another disadvantage is that permanent residents can claim the provincial property tax credit, but it doesn’t apply to a secondary property. 

In cottage country, school taxes are often significantly higher than municipal taxes. Cottagers understand taxes are required to pay for municipal services that are part and parcel of the pleasure of owning a recreational property. On the other hand, cottagers are not using the services of the local school division nor can they suggest to boards how their tax dollars should be used.  

Letters to editors frequently offer little sympathy — their argument is that someone able to afford a cottage should be able to pay school taxes. But other people recognize the unfairness of the long-standing tax grab. 

On his website, Ed Arnold, an RM of Alexander councillor, said: “Why are we paying school taxes on a second dwelling? I can understand if this is your principal dwelling, but not for a cottage. To further the argument, why are businesses being charged school taxes?”

“There is a double standard from the government of Manitoba that does not make any sense. Last year at Lester Beach, the province did not subsidize or pay for damages under the Emergency Measures Organization. One of its arguments was that these buildings were not principle dwellings. Why is the Government of Manitoba charging us education tax on our secondary dwellings?”

In the Cottagers Guide to the Eastern Beaches of Lake Winnipeg,  Arnold leads off his Council’s Corner with the following statement: “One of my main concerns is to look at the allocation of our taxes to the 

municipalities and the schools.” 

He urges cottagers to go to the Education Finance Coalition’s website www.letspayfair.com to let the government know how they feel about the unfairness of school taxes.

Dave Crabb, the president of the 3,000-member Manitoba Association of Cottage Owners Inc. (MACO) — the association is a member of the coalition — 

was particularly active during last year’s provincial 

election. 

On May 3, 2008, Crabb also led a MACO rally at the Manitoba Legislature  to remove school taxes from the property tax bill. Some of the main points made by Dave Crabb in his speech at this rally  were:

• “We have to stop the government balancing their budget by offloading education funding on property owners.

• “If we force government to include education entirely in the budget, then our government will have to be more accountable. The school tax will not be on our property. We will be able to vote for our school taxes. We will all pay school tax once. That is fair.

• “Education is available to all Manitobans of all ages. We all need it to be there for us and we all need to accept responsibility of funding the system — not a few property owners. This means shifting education funding to general revenue as Premier Gary Doer suggested in 1998.

• “General revenue taxation is the fairest method we have available. It respects our income level and our ability to pay. Once this is in place, we will not need all the rebates, credits, refunds and the other inequities that add to the unfairness of today’s system. 

• “Seniors and disabled can’t afford school tax on fixed, non-indexed incomes. 

• “Farmers with failed crops and culled herds cannot afford school tax. 

• “Some cottagers pay twice which is ridiculous. 

• Property owners and people leasing Crown land or in parks pay no school taxes. 

• “General revenue will end all this and make it fair for everyone.” 

“Manitoba needs to escape from its small province complex. We need to quit being last to change. We have a thriving stable economy and an ideal time to manoeuvre into a general revenue funded education system. Now is the ideal time for change instead of a “steady-as-she-goes” budget again. School taxes can be reformed. It just requires you, the people of Manitoba to demand that change.

“Let’s get excited about the ability to make change and fairness for all Manitobans. We need schools funded by general revenue. We need schools and families working together on improved education and 

solutions for the future.”

There is an increasing trend of cottage purchases by people living outside the province with more disposable income — thus in a better position to afford school taxes. The irony is that Manitobans may soon become renters of cottages predominantly owned by Albertans.