Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “For every benefit you receive a tax is levied.” How very true.
As municipalities across the Province struggle to establish budgets and tax rates, I can’t help but wonder how they ever arrive at a decision. There are so many factors to consider and endless demands to entertain. Councilors and staff need to consider reserves, debt ratios, debenture levels, user fees, development charges, capital needs, infrastructure needs and future planning for capital repair IN ADDITION TO a long laundry list of ratepayers wants and needs.
When I read local blogs, letters to the editor or listen to conversations around town, there is a big disconnect in the public thinking about getting what you want but not wanting to pay for it.
Everyone is complaining about government spending. Naturally, we all feel we are paying too much in property taxes and every time there is another expenditure approved, you can hear the howls of protest. But at the very same time, you can watch the parade of people with hands out… more money for the animal shelter, hospital, CAS. More fire fighters. A roof over a rink or a second ice surface, a wellness centre, a new library, street repairs, free parking and more affordable housing. Fix the sidewalks, plow the snow faster, build more trails.
How is it that the very same people making monetary demands are often the very same people whinging about tax increases? Don’t they get it? This stuff costs money!
Every year, a consulting firm does a municipal comparison of tax rates for 81 municipalities in Ontario. I found a copy of the complete study on the city of London website and if you take the time to actually scan through all 402 pages of this document, you might get a sense of just how complex taxation in Ontario proves to be.
You may be surprised to learn that Collingwood has the LOWEST relative tax burden for the Industrial class of all 81 municipalities surveyed. You might not be surprised to learn that Wasaga Beach has one of the lowest relative tax burdens for residential taxes as a percent of household income. Some other areas that caught my eye included the fact that Collingwood has average expenditures per capita ABOVE the average for fire and police services ( that is before the recent request to expand the number of firefighters) and, we have the HIGHEST expenditures per capita of all 81 municipalities for park operating costs. The average is $40 per capita. Wasaga Beach spends $45.00 and Collingwood spends $87.00.
My first reaction would be that I hope councilors read these reports before they make budget decisions.
My second reaction is that we spend too much on parks and, we tax industry too little.
My third thought is that perhaps this is all wrong. Perhaps we spend more on policing and fire because we have a wider geographic area. Perhaps we spend more on parks because we demand it to be so. Perhaps having the lowest industrial tax rates helps in our economic development strategies and maybe that is why we are getting a big new industrial park.
The only thing I know for sure is that it must be incredibly challenging to set a municipal budget. And I want my taxes to stop climbing. And I want everything around town to be nothing short of perfect.
Marg Scheben-Edey is a Broker with RE/MAX four seasons realty limited, Brokerage in beautiful Collingwood, ON. With three decades of experience, Marg is a leader in the local real estate marketplace and is ready to help guide both Buyers and Sellers in achieving their real estate goals. Email Marg