The following letter was submitted by Monica Dale, President, Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce.
The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce is concerned that some individuals are focused on continuing to advance information designed to make voters believe they have the lowest taxes in the north, when in reality they do not.
The conclusion that taxpayers in Sault Ste. Marie pay lower taxes than Sudbury for example, is based on the taxes of the average bungalow. This statistic says absolutely nothing about our tax competitiveness and it completely ignores the entire sector of the economy that creates jobs, namely taxpayers who occupy commercial and industrial properties.
To illustrate this point, the average bungalow in Sault Ste. Marie may be $100,000 cheaper than the average bungalow in Sudbury, which would factor into the tax paid in each community by the owner of that ‘average’ bungalow. So, a comparison of tax competitiveness based on the average bungalow is really missing the point. It represents a mixing of the health of the real estate market with the fiscal prudence and skills of the taxing authority. Tax on the average bungalow may be an easy concept for the average person to grasp, but it does nothing to inform or advance the issue. This positon is consistent with the views expressed during the last campaign.
In fact, one may argue that the taxes on the average bungalow in Sault Ste. Marie are lower because the prices of homes are being suppressed due to high tax rates. People may not be able to do both: pay more for a home and pay the high tax rates, so sellers get less for their properties than if taxes were lower.
The Chamber maintains that for our community to be able to move this forward we need to agree on two things… First, a meaningful and transparent method to measure our tax competitiveness across all assessment classes (i.e. homeowners and business properties) and; second, homeowners, business property taxpayers and the City must develop a clearly stated goal of what it means to be competitive.
Once these two things are accomplished, it will create an objective expectation among taxpayers that will guide and support our political leaders when they have to make spending decisions. When faced with spending options, instead of asking “how much will this cost?” we will be able to ask “how will this affect our ability to reach our goal?”
As the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce considered the draft budget, it identified a number of questions for City Council to address, as both search cooperatively for solutions that will put our community on a solid course of growth and prosperity. The Chamber will be discussing these questions in a series of roundtables with our membership over the coming weeks. The underlying premise is that spending and taxation must not only address services required in our community, but must also address the extent to which our taxation levels are attracting investment or repelling investment. While homeowners struggle with increasing costs, businesses, especially those looking to locate here, can simply decide to invest elsewhere.
When that happens, the City has less and less assessment to tax and inevitably more and more of the burden will fall on homeowners—many of whom have very few options.
Monica Dale, President
Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce