The Hamilton Spectator
The danger in pointing fingers
Council will consider whether it can highlight tax increases that aren’t its fault. Maybe it should also highlight those that are
Nobody likes paying taxes. And you can be sure elected officials don’t like being abused by the public when they go up.
So you can understand why a motion will be presented to city councillors on Wednesday that would explore whether there’s a way taxpayers can be told what parts of their municipal tax bill aren’t council’s fault but are resulting from costs passed down from the Ford government.
“That staff be directed to explore methods and resources in order to include language in City of Hamilton property tax bills that would indicate any increase in property taxes due to Ontario legislative changes and report back to the General Issues Committee,” reads the proposal.
It’s a terrific idea.
We should be reminded of who and what’s responsible for this city’s lofty municipal taxes. The ones that have us paying $6,226 for a home assessed at $500,000 (according to Zoocasa.com) compared to $3,897 in Burlington, $3,661 in Oakville and $3,159 in Toronto. And climbing.
Sewergate, for example.
Wait, that’s not what we meant. No, no, we understand the intent. But this is good. If we’re going to point out the things that are costing us money, our bills should have a notation explaining each person’s share of the millions of dollars that’ll be needed to fix the giant homegrown mess.
And how about our share of the cost to rectify the other sewage leak that saw 59 million litres flow into the bay. Or even the other leak that saw 337 million litres of sewage pass into Hamilton Harbour. And any others that are discovered.
What about the Red Hill Valley Parkway inquiry fiasco? The cost for that particular city hall doozy is nudging toward $30 million. If we’re going to point at causes of increasing taxes, it should certainly be on there.
Oh, and let’s not forget the consultants. Over the years auditors have slammed city hall’s excessive use of pricey outside help. Millions and millions of dollars have been spent on these folks.
There’s the LRT, too. City hall dragged that discussion out for years. Whether or not the downtown train will end up being good for the city, it’s now apparently forging ahead. But while going back and forth and back and forth, the price of the project rose from $1 billion to $3.4 billion. Sure, that’ll be paid by the province and feds, but there’s only one taxpayer. We’ll be dinged for that in some measure. That should also be noted on our levy slip.
And while we’re talking about the LRT, keep in mind that council is pushing to get work started on the system without any real idea how much it’ll cost to operate it. Could be $6.4 million a year or could be $16.5 million, we’re told. Here’s betting it’ll come in higher than that. It is public money, after all.
And when it does and the operating subsidy inevitably spikes, those around the council table will tell us they’re shocked at the amount. That should probably be noted on our bills when the day comes so we can know why our rates are rising.
Then, throw in any reversed decisions and other actions that drive up costs, just for good measure. And maybe even the $38,000 for council’s recent inauguration, which was three times more than the previous one.
Point is, some decisions from the province absolutely will affect what we pay. Not disputing that. We will indeed pay more on our municipal levy because of downloaded costs. Nobody’s excited about that. The voters can be outraged if they choose to be.
Just not sure this city and anyone sitting around that council table — even though some are new — are in the best position to be particularly pious, righteously indignant and finger-pointy when it comes to pointing out who’s responsible for the ever-growing cost of living here.