Ward five councillor responds to a recent article about the city’s property taxes. Fata issued the following to Saultonline.com
I’d like to take a few moments and comment on David O’s perspective on SSM property taxes. I would like to use my own property tax bill in this response. I pay, in total, $4,091.94 for my 39 year old hi-rise bungalow. My assessment value for my property appears somewhat reasonable. Broken down, the major part of my property tax bill includes the following:
Below is 73.16 % of my property tax bill:
Police: $ 646.50 ( 15.8 % )
Fire: $ 366.91 ( 9 % )
Public Works (PWT) $ 874.98 ( 21.3 % )
Education $ 495.30 ( 12.1 % )
Social Services $ 429.50 ( 10.5 % )
Boards & Outside agencies $ 182.45 ( 4.46 % )
In a recent local online column, someone said that MPAC is a big reason why our taxes are so high. This is not really true; even if you reduce everyone’s property values by say, 10 %, the City still needs the same amount of tax dollars and so, basically, the tax rate has to be adjusted to make up the difference. The best way to lower our taxes is to increase the assessment base and thus, reliance on more properties that will share the tax load in SSM. Another way, of course, is to control and reduce costs. but, it must be clear, and this is that there are some costs that your local government can not control. In fact, our hands are somewhat tied and folks, personally, most of the time, I find this extremely frustrating to deal with.
It should be noted and this is that a sizable portion of our property tax bill comes to us courtesy of fire and police. This has escalated in recent years, primarily because of the introduction of the 3-6-9 % retention rate that we pay fire and police. This extra bump in these salaries has resulted in 40 fire fighters and 106 police officers being on the sunshine list ($100,000 plus). There are only 28 on this sunshine list for the rest of the entire city staff. The provincial government can and should take ownership of this additional burden on local taxpayers as this government is, apparently, from all indications, dragging its heels on solving this extra tax burden. Arbitrators, arbitrarily give fire and police their annual increases, and your municipal government can do little to deal with it. This past Monday’s City Council meeting, Council did address a fire dept matter by transferring more staff to EMS. It happens that this will result in some savings for the local taxpayer without putting residents’ safety at risk. The additional EMS staff are critically needed and long overdue. This decision should result in a safer SSM, and, I seriously believe, eventual life saving results for some residents.
Another part of our property tax bill is education. Again, your local government can do little to reduce this. This is a provincial levy and thus, not something that your City Council can alter.
We can talk about the cost of education in this province but there’s no point. The government will continue to do whatever they do and your municipal government has little voice on this topic.
I truly do believe that the City should and must find innovative ways to bring down our costs for the SSM taxpayer. Personally, as a member of the Finance Committee, we all know we can not drag our heels, but must be aggressive in this regard. The Spending Review process is moving along, but what the results will be is something that can not be measured at this time. I have stated publicly, that everyone has to contribute to this spending review; I have stated that a 2% spending reduction from all departments is just one example. This includes Boards and Outside Agencies. On the surface, it appears that not everyone is on board with this idea. But, you know what, when a local taxpayer loses his job, his family has to dig deep and is forced to find creative ways to adjust their budget. Otherwise, folks, this family could be in dire straits like, God forbid, possibly even losing their home. We all must be on board and be prepared and to take responsibility. Other issues coming up include the City continuing to stay in the Day Care business and Development fees. Again, personally, I do not think most SSM taxpayers want to continue being in the daycare business and if we do consider introducing development fees, what we could most likely create is a lot of undeveloped, vacant land. Folks, local and outside developers will no doubt take their business elsewhere and SSM could be left high and dry. Again, just my opinion.
David O talks about high property taxes in SSM. Maybe the provincial government should be examining their contribution to your property tax bill. Let’s not even talk about what is happening to our energy costs and, unjustly, many are quick to blame our local PUC for these excessive costs that, unfortunately, will probably only continue to get worse. Seems obvious now that green energy does come with a very high price tag folks.
We all have to work together. We all have to be prepared to contribute, collectively. We had better spend less time thinking of excuses for the status quo and more energy trying to come up with constructive ideas to bring down the City’s overall budget. Everyone’s !!!
Remember folks, it’s important to engage with your Ward Councillors. Let your voices be heard. Complacency is not an option. After all, the budget does not balance itself, right ???
Just my thoughts.
Councilor Ward 5