This message is brought to you by Port Hopers for Fair Taxes. Please share it with friends and neighbours in both Ward 1 and Ward 2.
You can expect to receive a mailing from Council this week regarding Area Ratingand the distribution of tax-burden between the two Wards in the Municipality. An Area Rating Survey form will be part of the package.
At Council’s meeting last Tuesday (January 14th), Council passed a motion to proceed with a two-phased consultation with the community. They have realized that a 46.9% increase in Ward 2’s municipal taxes proposed at the Town Rec Centre on October 21st was not justified, especially coming on the heels of a total 20% increase for Ward 2 in the two preceding years. Our understanding of the principles and facts still indicates that no additional shift of tax-burden to Ward 2 is justifiable. PHFFT looks forward to the consultations with the public that are now being promised for February.
As we understand the process put forward by Staff, the first phase includes the mail-in survey to obtain feedback about the public’s opinions on Area Rating. It appears that Staff and Council are providing an opportunity for you to tell them, on a category-by-category basis, which costs should be “common” and which should be “area rated” (special).
When municipal levy is allocated between the Wards, “common” costs will be distributed according to Weighted Assessment, at the same rate across both Wards. “Area ratable” costs will be distributed by formula. We argue that Ward 2 residents are happy to pay their proper share, but the only way to determine what their fair share is, is to demand that ALL costs be area rated, and ask that we be shown how much of our tax money is being spent in Ward 2. We welcome that discussion.
An example of such a “common/special” choice before you is the survey’s category of “Roads”. Your decision will be whether $2.7 million for “Roads” is a cost that should be considered “common” or if it should be considered “special”. When you complete the survey form, if ANY of the following four conditions has a “no” answer in your opinion, then that category should be considered as “special”, and therefore that category would be a candidate for area rating and deserve a closer analysis of the true Ward-specific costs:
• Is the service being provided throughout the Municipality?
• Is the service undertaken generally through the Municipality?
• Is the service being provided or undertaken at the same level throughout the Municipality?
• Is the service being provide in the same manner through the Municipality?
For example, consider this question: “Is the $2.7 million spent on “Roads” undertaken at the same level, AND in the same manner, throughout the municipality?” If your answer is “yes”, then the “Roads” category would be tagged as “common”. If your answer to that question is “no”, then the “Roads” category would be tagged as “special” and a candidate for area rating.
It is not clear, at least to us, what will happen once all of the Stage 1 ‘feedback’ has been submitted in the surveys that are to be sent to Town Hall. It appears that Staff will integrate the findings and propose some option(s) for Council to review prior to Stage 2 in February. Stage 2 is supposed to involve consultations with the public, in four sessions (two in each Ward) guided by an independent facilitator.
We urged Council to reverse this process and hold the facilitated public consultationsprior to seeking public input about what services/categories should be considered for area rating. We argued that the principles needed to be first communicated, discussed and understood broadly, then it would make sense for Council to proceed with additional community consultation or surveys, and then with the development of a model. Not only would broad consensus have informed a process and a model for proceeding, but it would have renewed trust in Council and the taxation-system. We think it might also have provided some healing in the rift caused between the two Wards.
We will support Council and the residents of the community by ensuring plenty of informed feedback is provided.
In an effort to enable residents – of both Wards – to complete the survey and provide useful feedback into the process, Port Hopers for Fair Taxes will hold a public meeting at the Lions Centre on Monday, January 27th starting at 7:00 pm. At that meeting, we will:
• briefly review the background and how the process has reached this point
• lay out the principles that inform area rating
• review the survey’s four pages of costs and provide examples of each category
• offer other costs or sub-segments of costs that residents may want to ‘write in’
• answer questions and help people decide for themselves which costs should be area rated.
Please pass along this email to your friends and neighbours in both Wards who wish to provide informed feedback to Council, and especially to those who may find Council’s mailing confusing. And join us on Monday, Jan. 27 at 7pm at the Lions Centre. Feel free to bring your Area Rating Survey package with you..