Committee of the Whole moves toward Stage 2 of Area Rating Taxation Review

At the COW meeting on February 18th, Council received a report and presentation from David Baxter, Director of Finance, related to the January Area Rating Survey that was circulated by Council.

Ratepayers and residents have submitted 818 responses to the survey.  About one third of the responses came in from Ward 1 and two thirds came in from Ward 2.  The report is available on the Municipality’s website, www.porthope.ca, within the Area Rating/Taxation Review section.  As of the afternoon of February 18th, all of the submitted surveys are available for download from the same site.

After receiving extensive input and comments from Councillor Greg Burns, and discounting much of the material in Staff’s report, the Committee of the Whole moved to proceed to Stage 2 of the Area Rating Taxation Review, with specific focus on the following services/departments for potential candidates as “special services” for area rating:  Policing, Police Service Board, Transit, Bulky Waste Pickup, Christmas Tree and Yard Waste Pickup, Streetlights, Sidewalks, Canton Municipal Office, Library, Dredging, PRC Recreational Programs, and PRC Facilities (Jack Burger Sports Complex, Town Park Rec Centre, Ruth Clark Activity Centre, Marina).

Deputy Mayor Jeff Gilmer, during discussions on the Area Rating topic, emphasized that “all services would be discussed in the March meetings”.

Rick Austin, Chair of the General Government and Finance Committee, in response to a question posed by Port Hopers for Fair Taxes (PHFFT) after the motion, confirmed that a numerical tabulation of the survey results is not available.  At that point, Port Hopers for Fair Taxes offered the Committee a three-page set of survey tabulations, compiled by PHFFT on February 18th and based on 444 surveys that were downloaded from the Municipal website.  One page of the results is for both of the wards combined, one page is for Ward 1, and one page is for Ward 2.  The tabulations cover all of the 29 services/departments that the ratepayers responded to in the survey.  Get the survey results tabulations prepared by Port Hopers for Fair Taxes.

In response to a question from Port Hopers for Fair Taxes,  CAO Carl Cannon reported that 2013 budget detail is not available in the same form as the more-comprehensive 2011 and 2012 budget detail that is posted on the Municipal website,.  For 2013, the budget numbers that are on the website are in summary form.  We are looking forward to receiving 2014 budget information at the same level of detail that was released for 2011 and 2012, and we will monitor the Budget Committee discussions as they continue this month and next, leading up to the setting of tax rates for each ward in April.

Based on Mr. Baxter’s report to COW and on discussions during the Committee meeting on Feb. 18th, for Stage 2 of the Area Rating Review we understand that Staff will compile additional financial data for community review and discussion, will put a notice on the Municipal website, will send out a mailing to all property owners, will arrange two public meetings in each Ward, will place ads in local newspapers, and will consolidate all community feedback received by March 21st into a report to Committee of the Whole on April 1st.

Port Hopers for Fair Taxes continues to offer its support and assistance to the facilitator, in gathering additional insight with regard to the historical context and the current situation.

Full financial analysis of all service areas is the only way to understand the real situation by expense category  There may be a few cases (perhaps policing and fire) where Ward 2 ratepayers might need to pay more than 15% of the total levy for that service.  And there may be many areas where Ward 2 is justified in paying less than 15%. We continue to note that ratepayers are willing to pay their share if the allocation for each service/department is transparently justified, fair, and equitable.

We continue to encourage residents from across the municipality to engage in the discussions with Council, to become informed, and to provide the feedback as the consultation process continues.

The Committee of the Whole approved Staff to proceed with four open house sessions, each to be guided by a facilitator, with these dates and locations:

Wed. March 5th, Canton Municipal Office, 2pm-4pm and 7pm-9pm

Thurs. March 6th, Town Park Rec Centre, 2pm-4pm and 7pm-9pm

Deputy Mayor Jeff Gilmer confirmed that any resident may attend any session, at their convenience.