Constituent weighs in on taxes

I was copied on an e-mail to the Guelph Mercury regarding the article today about Guelph taxes.  The constituent gave me permission to post his comments on my blog.  As committed earlier today, our CFO will review this report and respond to Council . 

I was concerned about what was reported in your article. I looked at the Local Government Performance index (lgpi.org) and was even more concerned. I am fiscally conservative and would prefer lower taxes BUT this report is totally skewed as it is missing the MAJORITY of taxes that the property owners pay in a two tiered system.

I just did a quick Google search on the property tax rates for the municipalities around Guelph and found this:

Tax rates from city/township websites

Municipality            CITY                     REGION /CTY          EDUCATION            TOTAL

Kitchener                   0.0044361          0.0066709          0.0024100            0.0135170

Cambridge                0.0044722          0.0066709          0.0024100            0.0135531

Waterloo                    0.00414224        0.00667088        0.0024100         0.01322312         

Guelph                       0.01073016        0.0000000        0.0024100           0.01314016

Guelph Eramosa     0.00250112        0.00707376        0.0024100           0.01198488

As you can see Guelph’s overall tax rate is lower than that of every portion of the “tri-cities” because of the Region / County portion of the property tax rate.

My wife and I  recently moved. We decided to stay in the city of Guelph because it would cost us less in taxes rather than moving closer to work for me or into the township. There are a lot more things to consider when calculating municipal property taxes and cost of ownership of property in a specific city.  For example, the township will only collect your garbage in bags that cost $2.00 each whereas Guelph includes garbage collection in our property taxes.

I am getting very upset with many of the media who are not looking at the entire picture before reporting on something and this, unfortunately, is the breaking point for me. Please, in future consider more than just regurgitating sensational numbers just because you think they will sell more papers… if anything this puts me off of buying the Mercury and other newspapers.  

I have CCed the mayor, my ward councillors and Cam Gutherie who is an acquaintance of mine from elementary school because you quoted him in your article…

Best Regards,

Peter Devries

About Karen Farbridge

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10 Comments on “Constituent weighs in on taxes”

  1. Regg Struyk Says:

    Great comments Peter. What is interesting is that it appears the analyst lumped all properties (businesses and homes) into one category. The problem with that is you could skew the results. For example both the University and Linimar own several large properties in which they would pay significant property tax and it appears that the Frontier Centre averaged this across all property owners which does not necessarily give you an accurate snapshot of what the average home owner pays in Guelph.

  2. Ray Mitchell Says:

    Maybe all good points, but then average in the fact that services like ice-rental and water cost more, we paid the same last year but slashed services like transit, and we gave up $30 million in Hydro money that was paying us $1.5 million a year in interest, and you come up with the inarguable fact that we pay more per capita than any other municipality in Ontario. At the end of the day, it is how much comes out of your pocket, and we are over-charged and under-serviced.

  3. Doug Says:

    So, the city, in it’s usual fashion, has hired a consultant to look into this situation and crunch the numbers.
    We apparently don’t have anyone on staff who has the required skill or honesty to do this job for us.
    And yet, you are confused as to the reason for out of control budgets at city hall.
    Perhaps we should get rid of city staff and just hire consultants.

  4. kfarbridge Says:

    We do have city staff who are more than qualified to do this work and who have impeccable integrity. However, to ensure independence of the analysis, it is important for us to seek outside review.

    Not being afraid to seek outside review of our performance is part of being accountable and transparent.

  5. Doug Says:

    And exactly how much is this going to cost and what part of the budget is it going to come from?

  6. kfarbridge Says:

    It has not taken long or much effort for the Mercury to confirm the LGPI report is “flawed”.

    However, the damage has been done. These headlines travel beyond our city limits. I have had several people from outside of Guelph comment on the headline. We are working with one of these individuals to attract new business and jobs to Guelph and to open up international business opportunities for local business. Fortunately, he knows better but I worry about others who are thinking of doing business in Guelph. Misinformation like this, that has the potential to damage the City’s reputation in the eyes of investors, is not helpful.

    We will still be asking the BMA consulting firm to comment on the LGPI methodology AS PART OF their annual work for us AND 80 other municipalities across Ontario. Given the Mercury has also suggested that the BMA work is “flawed”, I think they will be highly motivated to weigh in on the matter.

    The Mercury is right. This is our preferred benchmarking review because it is backed by 80 municipalities across the Province regardless of where they sit in the rankings. We cost share in having the work done rather than each of us reinventing the wheel. In Guelph, we use this data to develop our financial dashboard – the key performance indicators that Council uses to monitor the financial performance of the City.

  7. kfarbridge Says:

    I need to clarify my last comment. The BMA report is backed by data from 80 municipalities. I do not know if all those municipalities use the analysis is the same way that Guelph does to benchmark and monitor our financial performance.

  8. Jim Grant Says:

    Karen – Just a different perspective here. When you say “We do have city staff who are more than qualified to do this work and who have impeccable integrity. However, to ensure independence of the analysis, it is important for us to seek outside review.”

    We seem to project an air of lack of confidence in our city staff as Council is always going outside for consultants reports.

    If I were on City Hall’s payroll, I would be taking offence to this. What’s the point of a highly skilled staff, if we are not going to use them. Or, is this a case of politicians trying to justify whatever they are doing by having outside sources agree with you.

    PS – Word on the street is a lack of confidence in the BMA report as it was done for City Council, not City Tax Payer.

  9. kfarbridge Says:

    Staff recommend the use of external consultants to Council and/or use external consultants for some of the following reasons:

    We don’t have the particular expertise on staff and it doesn’t make sense to have that expertise as a full-time position (i.e. to design the new City Hall).

    Workloads are too full but critical work needs to be done (i.e. 5 years of infrastructure work in one year through the Infrastructure Stimulus Program)

    We require an independent peer review.

  10. Jim Grant Says:

    So those are some of the reasons by which I would agree. However, now we are going outside again to the same people who reported we were one of the best in taxation, to refute someone who says we are not.
    I don’t see how this time and money spent is going to have any credibility. If we are concerned with the report, in being “Transparent”, we would be using a completely unbiased company for the comparison.

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