By David F. Rooney
You can tell that City Council is getting close to a resolution of the municipal budget question by the fact that it is beginning to consider how to apply the tax rate.
At last Tuesday’s meeting of Council as a Committee of the Whole (CoW) Finance Director Graham Inglis unveiled nine different options that illustrated the impact of different mill rates that would ensure the City enjoyed tax revenues of $7,584,927.
Option 1 was a zero-per-cent increase which would see residential taxes remain the same at 3.3793, the utility rate at 50.8620, major industry at 31.5775, light industry at 24.4132 and business at 18.3617.
Option 2 would see residential pegged at 3.3793, utilities at 28.0822 (an 18.10 % decrease), major industry at 31.5775 (a zero per cent increase), light industry at 24.4132 (zero per cent) and business at 10.1380 (-44.79%).
Option 3 would see residential rates at 3.3793 (no increase), utilities at 50.8620 (-5.99%) and heavy and light industries and business at 18.3617 each (-41.85% for heavy industry, (-24.79% light industry and no change in taxes for business).
Option 4 offered a slight increase in the residential rate at 3.5285 (+4.36%), a utility rate of 50.8620 (-5.99%) and no changes to the industrial, business and seasonal rates (however, that still represents changes of -41.85% for heavy industry, (-24.79% light industry and no change in taxes for business).
Option 5 suggested a residential rate of 3.3793 (zero increase), a utility rate of 50.8620 (-5.99), major industrial and business sector rates of 18.3617 (representing a 41.85% decrease for heavy industry and no increase for in taxes for business) but a light industrial rate of 24.4132 (this would not increase this sector’s taxes).
Option 6 allowed a very slight increase in the residential rate to 3.4950 (+3.42%). The utility rate would be 50.8620 (-5.99%), the heavy industry and business rates would be 18.3617 (this decreases heavy industry by 41.85%), the light industry rate would be 24.4132 (no change there).
Option 7 mandated a residential rate increase to 4.2850 (a whopping 26.8 % increase in taxes), a utility rate of 35.6084 (-34.19%) major industry rate of 31.5775 (no increase in taxes), a light industry rate of 24.4132 (no increase in taxes) and a business rate of 12.8550 (this represents a dramatic 29.99% decrease in taxes).
Option 8 forecast a residential rate of 3.8590 (a 14.19% tax increase), a utility rate of 42.7577 (-20.97%), a major industry rate of 31.5775 (no change in taxes), a light industry rate of 24.4132 (no change) and a business rate of 15.4389 (-15.93%).
The last option offered to Council suggests a residential rate of 3.5150 (a slight increase of 4.01%), a utility rate of 48.6828 (-10.02%), a major industry rate of 31.5775 (no change in taxes), a light industry rate of 24.4132 (no change) and a business rate of 17.5750 (-4.28%).
This is tough stuff. Council is under heavy pressure from the business community to, at the very least, hold the line on business property taxes and get its spending under control.
A group of six business and residential property owners have been attending regular Council and CoW meetings. They are closely monitoring the budget discussions and are to submit their own, independent budget recommendations to Council. The mayor and councillors are not bound to accept those recommendations.
“The question I have is this: residential taxpayers pay 50% of the City taxes based on a total (2011) assessed value of $1.141 billion residential property while non- residential taxpayers pay the other 50% but based on a total assessed value (2011) of only $166.5 million; do you think this is equitable?”
Bob Melnyk, one of the three property owners sitting on this committee (or focus group as Council calls it, even though it is not, strictly speaking, a focus group) has a question he personally hopes people will answer by posting comments on this story: “The question I have is this: residential taxpayers pay 50% of the City taxes based on a total (2011) assessed value of $1.141 billion residential property while non- residential taxpayers pay the other 50% but based on a total assessed value (2011) of only $166.5 million; do you think this is equitable?”
That question is one of the key questions that the Chamber of Commerce has been asking the City for the last several months. At a guess, most property owners would likely agree that the current situation is not equitable. But how do you balance the mill rates and taxes applied to the various sectors of the tax-paying public so that no one group bears a disproportionate tax burden while still allowing the City to maintain the level of service everyone expects? And not only that. How do you do that so the City can still forge ahead with its plans for infrastructure improvement and replacement?