Keeping Taxes In Line

Keeping Taxes In Line

No one wants to see property taxes go up.

But they do. Partially, that’s because of inflation. The city’s not immune from rising costs. And partially it’s because residents want more and better services.

What most people are interested in, though, is how much they’re going up

When city council approved the 2022 budget, the tax rate increase was 1.98 per cent. That was less than the inflation rate which was 2.3 per cent at the time.

My goal in 2018 when I was first elected, and my goal now, is to keep tax increases at or below the rate of inflation.

How do you do that?

During my career as a lawyer, I spent several years as the managing partner of my firm. It was my job to run the business side of a company with 55 employees and 20 partners. I learned there’s a pretty straightforward formula for making a business successful: maximize revenues and minimize expenses.

Here at the city, we’re doing both.

Traditionally, municipalities get money from three sources: property taxes, fees and government grants.

Our focus has been to find a fourth revenue stream to relieve the pressure on property taxpayers.

For example, Brantford Hydro merged with Energy Plus, the power company in Cambridge-North Dumfries. The result is a more efficient company that will pay bigger dividends back to its shareholders: the taxpayers in the three municipalities.

We are partnering with the County of Brant to examine the future of the Brantford Airport, which is owned by the city but lies in the county. We want to find out how we can generate more revenue from the airport. Can we increase the number of users? Can we lure new aviation-related businesses to the property? The increased revenue and taxes would flow to the county and the city.

The building boom helps too. When an eight-story apartment building rises on a previously empty property, the tax revenue goes up dramatically. Again, that’s more revenue without raising property tax rates.

The other part of the equation is controlling expenses.

During covid we learned that about a third city staff could work from home, with fewer absences and more productivity. That means we need less office space, which has resulted in huge savings.

We were planning to spend $20 million to renovate the old city hall for social services staff. Now we don’t need to do that. So, on top of the renovation savings, we can sell the old city hall. The money can go into affordable housing, the new hospital or other capital works. That saves us from raising taxes for those projects.

We also want to talk to Brant County about ways we can work together to offer better services and control operating expenses in both municipalities.

We’re already doing this with social services and affordable housing. There are other areas we could explore: sewer and water services, landfill operation, waste management and others.

Controlling city expenses also comes into play when the Expansion Lands north of Powerline Road are developed. We’ve adopted a policy that “growth pays for growth.” When the city builds new sewer and water lines and other services in the area, it will largely be paid for by development charges on the lots that will be sold by the developers.

The result of the sale of those residential, commercial and industrial lots will be more revenue for the city to finance programs and services for the entire city.