There is an article in today’s Guelph Mercury regarding a report suggesting Guelph’s taxes are among the highest in the country.
I have asked our Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer to review the report and respond to Council.
First, Council needs to understand how the index was developed and whether we agree with the findings.
We participate in independent municipal benchmarking in Ontario which would suggest this might not be accurate. But let’s find out.
We have investigated similar types of reports in the past and found errors in data and/or assumptions. Very often these analyses between municipalities neglect to recognize that Guelph is a single-tier municipality. This means we deliver all municipal services unlike cities like Waterloo, Kitchener or Cambridge. These cities are part of a two-tier system where the regional level of goverment also collects municipal property taxes to deliver many services.
Second, if the findings are correct, we need to understand what is contributing to our taxes relative to other municipalities.
The levying of some municipal property taxes are under our control. Council is directly accountable for these taxes.
However, some municipal property taxes are levyed by the Province to pay for provincial services. These are not under Council’s control. For instance, Guelph property taxpayers are treated differently than almost every other municipal taxpayer in this Province when it comes to paying for provincially-mandated social services, childcare and social housing costs. This adds millions of dollars of additional tax burden on to Guelph’s municipal taxpayers. Guelph businesses are taxed by the Province for education purposes at a level higher than the provincial average.
Council is entering the 2011 budget planning process. This presents a great opportunity to review the findings of the report and ensure we provide good information in advance of budget setting to Council and the community.