Consider the following sobering statistics Below is a chart of residential taxes in six cities per million dollars of assessment.
Let the games begin! Hamilton City Council recently launched a trial balloon concerning our 2020 property tax increase. We are told we could be facing an increase of 5.5 percent. When the actual increase is less , residents are expected to breathe a sigh of relief and council can pronounce they have been fiscally responsible. Until of course next year , when the cycle is repeated and new Market Value Assessments will exacerbate an already dire situation More residents will either default on their taxes, struggle to pay them or face such crippling increases they may consider moving elsewhere .How long will it take for council to realize we are facing a financial crisis which requires much more than just keeping our annual increases to a minimum ?
Hamilton – 12,620
Ottawa – 10,684
Monteal – 7,672
Calgary – 6,357
Toronto – 6,355
Vancouver – 2,468
In Hamilton you pay 12,620 on your million dollar asset . In Toronto for the same taxes your home will net you two million. To calculate your taxes you multiply your MVA times your Property Tax Rate which is set yearly by the municipality to reach their approved budget. Following is a list of the PTR for Hamilton and its surrounding communities.
Toronto – .63
Oakville – .76
Burlington – .81
Kitchener – 1.11
Guelph – 1.17
Hamilton – 1.26
To be fair, there are higher PTR s .( Windsor 1.78 , St. Catharines 1.42.) However , the problem with our city is recently our residential assessments have increased dramatically. This explains why many retirees who live in established neighbourhoods are suddenly dealing with exorbitant increases and face the real threat of losing their homes.
There are several strategies council could employ to address our current revenue shortfall.
- Make a concerted effort to assess all municipal budgets and reduce spending by an agreed upon percentage.
- Support local businesses and incentivize entrepreneurs to invest in our city to increase our tax base.( This is currently happening but the benefits will have no immediate impact )
- Form an alliance with other municipalities to lobby our provincial government to upload more program costs.
- Increase property taxes.
For too long it seems our council defaults to # 4. This approach conveniently allows them to postpone difficult fiscal decisions. No one is suggesting this process will be easy. Sacrifices and difficult decisions will have to be made. The same sacrifices residents have been making for years. It is time for our council to be held to the same standard. We need to deal with our deficit in a prudent manner. Here are some suggestions:
- Eliminate the inner ward 100,000 discretionary fund and the Area Rating slush fund. We cannot afford it.
- Adopt a policy that mandates each ward contribute savings to reduce the current budget This will force all councillors to prioritize initiatives into essential and non essential spending.
- Place a moratorium on non essential initiatives.
- Implement Bi Weekly garbage collection. I refer to Grant Ranalli’s informative article in the Nov 18 th Spectator. Surely for a council serious about saving tax dollars this is low hanging fruit. ( I would propose an exception for restaurants )
- Where feasible, reduce the size of some departments through attrition so no jobs are displaced.
- Place a moratorium on all new hirings.
I make these suggestions out of a sense of concern for our city. Hamilton’s taxes must remain competitive to avoid an exodus of both residents and businesses to more affordable regions. It is unrealistic to expect citizens to continue to make sacrifices to fund our budget when they see little attempt by our representatives to control spending. It is exasperating and will have a devastating effect on the quality of life we can offer our residents.
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