Education tax break delayed in Manitoba

Manitoba farmers will get no relief from education taxes any time soon, Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler acknowledged.

However, he said the government is committed to fixing the province’s primary education system, and a funding overhaul is connected to that.

“We have to fix that,” said Eichler about the taxation model that has seen farmers pay a rapidly escalating share of education costs.

“It’s very complicated, the whole formula.”

However, the provincial government isn’t considering funding alternatives today because of the recently appointed education review task force’s work. In announcing the review, Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said that the funding issue won’t be addressed by the review, and that the government will wait to see what the task force recommends in terms of restructuring the system before the government will know how much and how to fund a possible new system.

“We are still keeping our eye on how that might roll out,” said Eichler at Keystone Agricultural Producers’ annual meeting Feb. 5.

“We know that there are a number of funding models that would look better.”

His comments came in response to a challenge from Manitoba Canola Producers Association President Chuck Fossay’s plea that the government consider alternatives “sooner than later…. Farmers are really taking on an unfair proportion of that cost … that really has no relationship to the ability of farmers to pay the taxes.”

Farmers in Manitoba have long complained that they pay too large a share of education taxes due to land values being the basis for school taxes. That situation has greatly worsened as farmland values have soared, shifting more of the taxation burden from residential and commercial properties to farmers.

With automatic reassessments now made every two years, farmers quickly incur higher education taxes if local values are rising.

The education system task force is scheduled to report in February 2020, after which the government will study the recommendations, release them to the public, and set a course for fixing the system, Goertzen said.

That will closely coincide with a provincial election, so when the government will directly address the funding model is unclear, and Eichler gave few hints.

“The review … will be done prior to the election and the results of that will let us set the stage and then we’ll be able to have those discussions,” said Eichler.

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