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K. Lake businessman advocates tax revolt to oppose town's plan to construct housing.

K. Lake businessman advocates tax revolt to oppose town's plan to construct housing

Frank Mele is so fed up with municipal taxes and the way the money is spent that he is lobbying his neighbors to start a tax revolt in his home town of Kirkland Lake.

Mele, a driving school operator and the owner of several rental housing units in the Northern Ontario community, has organized a local chapter of the Taxpayers' Coalition of Ontario. The chapter has approximately 250 members.

The coalition was formed last year when George Lansens of Blenheim, Ont. organized a successful tax revolt in that southern Ontario community.

Lansens, the owner of an auto parts manufacturing firm, organized the revolt after failing to receive the revolt after failing to receive a satisfactory explanation of whey his property taxes increased by $58,000 in one year.

Mele, however, is upset that his local government has decided to take advantage of provincial funding and construct low-rent housing units even though the town has a 15-per-cent apartment vacancy rate.

He says the decision has forced him to get out of the apartment rental business.

"I can't compete, so I am getting out," he says.

Mele once owned and rented 21 apartments. He now only owns eight apartments, and he plans to sell them as soon as he can find a buyer.

Mele claims he charges only $350 per month for a recently renovated one-bedroom apartment.

Mele also shares Lansens' frustration with increased taxes. He says his annual property tax bill rose by 35 per cent in 1988 alone.

"Taxes are just a deadly problem. All levels (of government) have gone into debt. We are forced to pay for their short-sightedness, and we can't compete," insists Mele.

Lansens is critical of the system which allows all levels of government to spend tax money without public input, except at election time.

The result of the Blenheim tax revolt, according to Lansens, was that the local government passed a resolution to freeze property taxes to 1990 rates and phase in the increase over two years.

"It was a start," he says.

When Mele organized a meeting last month to attempt to organize a tax revolt, the response was less than enthusiastic. Only 30 people turned out to the meeting.

"It is hard to get a positive response because there is only a small minority carrying the weight," he explains. "30 per cent of the population is over 65 (years of age), and Kirkland Lake has a high percentage of people on welfare. Neither of them cares too much."

The taxpayers' coalition has 20,000 members in 58 chapters which include Kirkland Lake, Fort Frances, Thunder Bay and Marathon.

Lansens predicts that the coalition will grow to 100,000 taxpayers by the time the municipal elections are held this fall.

The coalition's attention has been focused on municipal governments. Both Mele and Lansens claim it is the only level of government that ordinary citizens can hope to influence.

The coalition is calling for what Lansens referred to as the "six commandments." These are:

* public votes on mill rate increases and large capital project expenditures

* direct elections for all local boards and committees

* the right to reject "top-down" programs mandated by higher levels of government

* a set limit for the length of time a school board trustee can sit in office

* recorded votes on all proposals to raise or spend money

* consolidation and rationalization of municipal bureaucracies to reduce duplication of services by various levels of government
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Kirkland Lake, Ontario; Frank Mele
Author:McDougall, Douglas
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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