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Stark’s new tax proposal goes nowhere

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Troy Shantz

A Sarnia city councillor’s failed motion was meant to generate new revenue for the city as taxpayers face job losses and insolvency due to COVID-19, he says.

Coun. Mike Stark’s motion presented at the Sept. 14 council meeting would have directed the city to consider seeking provincial approval for another fee for new home purchases, he said.

If approval was granted, Sarnia would have joined Toronto as the only other city in the province with the additional fee. In Toronto, home buyers are hit with a 1.6 percent fee, Stark explained, but Sarnia’s could be whatever council decided.

“If you can afford to purchase a resale home, it seems to me that you should also be in a position to contribute to what is going to be, I believe, a looming financial issue for the city,” said Stark after the meeting.

Mike Stark

The motion didn’t have a seconder, and was never debated at the meeting.

Stark says there’s plenty of evidence that Sarnia is going to have financial struggles in the near future.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted dozens of Sarnia businesses. Numerous local businesses have not yet reopened and there’s no indication when they will, according to the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation in July.

Stark believes up to 40 percent of restaurants in Canada won’t survive the year.

He said this new fee would have been an alternative to raising city property taxes in next year’s budget.

“It’s not only the businesses I’m worried about, it’s the people that work in those businesses. They’re under financial pressure. How are they going to pay their bills?” he said. “We need to continue to look for other sources of revenue, apart from just raising everyone’s taxes. I’m not prepared to do that.”

The notion of a new tax on home purchases was supported by many, but rubbed some in the real estate community the wrong way, Stark added.

He said he has no plans to bring his motion back to the table.

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