Renters in Grand Falls-Windsor and some other area communities may have noticed a bill in their mailbox from the municipality. The amount varies from town to town but in Grand Falls-Windsor its $175 and it’s called the poll tax. It’s a tax for renters only and according to the municipality it’s to cover the cost of services such as Town infrastructure and garbage collection. Property owners in town pay for these services through their property taxes, as in every municipality in the province.
The poll tax however, is not something people pay in every municipality in the province. Approximately 15 of the over 200 municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador charge this fee, working out to less than eight per cent. It was a hot topic in Corner Brook council this year when they did their budget and Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Al Hawkins said it was here as well.
The Town of Grand Falls-Windsor collects approximately $160,000 in poll taxes each year, which is a drop in the bucket in their budget. Especially if you consider they have costs for administering it, collecting it, etc. They’ve allocated almost twice that amount to build a splash pad, for gods sake.
Those who it isn’t a drop in the bucket for however, are those on the lower end of the pay scale. People rarely choose not to own homes and it is usually a matter of financial constraint that lead to renting. Combine that with the unusually high cost of rental properties in this town and $175 could be quite onerous. Say you work somewhere that pays you minimum wage. Every month you probably clear around $1,200 after taxes (which FYI, trickle downs to the municipalities in the forms of grants and such for the specific purpose of maintaining infrastructure but that’s another story) and about $400 of that goes to rent, if you have a roommate. Plus utilities, gas, food, car insurance, all of which are pretty high in this province. So you’re probably living on a fairly tight budget. Now, you have to give the Town $175 or have them garnish your wages. For a tax that has been abolished in most of the world, hell the vast majority of this country, because it’s considered to target the most vulnerable in society.
Maybe next year when the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor looks at its budget it will decide to phase out this regressive, outdated tax on its citizens who need it most and maybe cut back on building frivolities such as splash pads.