Remember the good old days back in January?
Ah, but the much less ballyhooed caveat was that the relatively less onerous increase for homeowners in an election year owed less to a trifling with the idea of fiscal restraint and mostly on the redistribution of the tax burden to commercial properties and the unguaranteed approval of the provincial government.
[C]ouncil has approved a 2006 budget that raises residential property taxes by 2.95 per cent. After two years of 5.9 and 6.6 per cent increases, this year's hike may appear to be a relief — such are the reduced expectations of Londoners. Property taxes get the big press, but Londoners will be paying 9.6 and 5 per cent increases in sewer and water rates respectively.
Well, in April Londoners still face the 9.6 and 5 per cent increases in sewer and water charges. But while city council is scrambling to stem their political vulnerability before this fall's election by pushing for a pesticide ban to appease a small special interest group that receives disproportionate coverage in the local media, ordinary Londoners are getting a few more inches of the shaft. From the London Free Press:
Contrary to the suggestion of the Free Press reporter, the reasons for the greater tax increase is simple — it's because council continues to increase spending! Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco, however, is making it quite clear that any suggestion of responsibility on the part of her administration will not be tolerated — also from the Free Press:
Only three months ago, council patted itself on the back after passing a budget boosting taxes by 2.95 per cent for 2006. Many expected an even lower hike because Queen's Park had yet to declare an education levy expected to reduce rates further. It has done so since. But the low education levy will only soften the blow to London homeowners, who are already among the most heavily taxed in the country.
Right… "the province made us do it" has been the refrain of DeCicco's administration for the past several years. How much poorer do Londoners have to be before she stops washing it?
London Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco and three controllers backed a staff plan yesterday that would hike this year's taxes for homeowners and raise total charges, including water and sewer charges, nearly five per cent.
London homeowners are nearly the highest taxed in Canada, according to a recent study by the city of Edmonton.
Update, April 28:From the London Free Press:
I have no idea what DeCicco is saying, but while she is abdicating responsbility in a wilfully inscrutable manner, Hume is at least direct about it. However, with a municipal debt of $335.4 million at the end of 2004 and increasing taxes despite receiving the lobbied-for handouts from the province, city politicians like Hume are hardly in a position to judge bad financial planning versus good. But council can quite easily manage its debt obligations and reduce taxes next year and after by exercising fiscal restraint — council has hardly been compelled to spend above and beyond what is required for basic services. It is simple — stop spending! If council's debt reduction plan is to rely on provincial windfalls or surplus taxation, they cannot claim to know anything at all about financial planning. Curiously, Hume alludes to this in defense of postponing responsibility:
Momentum is building on city council to reopen this year's budget to give London property taxpayers more relief. Despite board of control's recommendation on Wednesday to set the property tax hike at 3.9 per cent, several council members said yesterday they won't break their promise to deliver a tax hike of three per cent or less. For the budget to be reopened, two-thirds of London's 19-member council must vote at Monday's meeting in favour of revising the budget.
"There's an election next year, governments change and policies change. There's no guarantee for this money each year."