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Fun with numbers

By John Sigurjonsson

This is “Fun With Numbers” episode 3. As I said in earlier episodes, when Municipal Council gets involved in arithmetic things can get a little strange.

Take the 2013 budget, please!

Council announced approval of a 3.2% budget increase after extensive deliberations last February. (4.4% less a 1.2% education tax reduction from the province)

Well, maybe not. At the April 22 Council meeting they were informed that the increase is really 3.44%. On a $128 million tax base that difference amounts to about $310,000. Nobody flinched. Small change among friends eh?

If Council didn’t vote for it, does it have legal status? Let’s leave that question to the experts.

Now Council has been repeatedly told that a 1% tax increase would cost the typical (average) residential property owner about $25 for the year. So at 3.44% that’s $86 right? Well no. For residential tax payers the increase is actually 3.64%, or $92 on average..

But wait! 40% of residential property owners will see no increase or an actual decrease (37% of properties) in taxes. 88% had tax increases of 4% or less. Only 12% had tax increases greater than 4%.

Over 50% of commercial properties had tax decreases, as did industrial properties.

Costs Are Up But Taxes Are Down

The cost of delivering services to these properties has not gone down. The inflationary rate on municipal services generally runs about 4%. Why would we reduce taxes on these properties?

Most of us expect our property taxes to go up at about the rate of inflation. Chatham-Kent taxes aren’t covering our municipal costs, so we might expect larger increases. The costs of property in CK are so low compared to other communities, and property taxes are such a small percentage of our living costs, we could probably accept larger increases.

Our farm neighbors are benefiting from exceptional prices for their crops, which are driving up their land values because potential buyers expect those exceptional prices to continue. So farms will be taxed millions more in the next few years, and will be able to afford it because of the high value of the crops. They have shown great “class” by not complaining about paying their fair share. However, they have every right to expect that their increased contribution to the community will result in improved community services, and not just reduced taxes for others.

Would you rather save a couple of dollars a month on taxes, or have a sidewalk or bike path to get your child safely to school? Or to provide a safe cross walk for your elderly parent to get where they want to go? Or to repair that massive pothole on your favorite street? Or to make sure that bridge you cross every day is safe? Or to have a riverfront you can enjoy and be proud of? Or to generate a decent job for yourself or your children? Or to  …. (fill in your own hopes for your community)

Let’s not scrimp on our communities. They shape our lives.