Friday, January 27, 2006

Thanks for your fiscal restraint and your foresight

That little matter of the 2.95 per cent increase in property taxes that council approved in its budget on Tuesday is, unsurprisingly, still up in the air. From the London Free Press:

[T]here are two outstanding issues that could push taxes up — or down. The province still hasn't issued its 2006 education tax levy and the city is waiting for provincial approval to shift some of the property tax burden from residential to commercial and industrial.

[…] That's because in 1999 the province, as part of its new market-value tax assessment system, passed a regulation that doesn't allow municipalities to shift the burden of taxes from residential to commercial or industrial. The law does, however, allow shifts from commercial and industrial to residential, which has twice occurred. But, last year, when residential assessments began to climb, the province allowed a shift to commercial and industrial.

This year, with residential assessments again climbing an average of 13.82 per cent, the city hopes to get the same approval. If it doesn't, the average tax bill will climb another 1.4 per cent, adding about $30 to the bill, now estimated at $2,149 — including a $60.90 hike approved Tuesday. The figures apply to an average home assessed at $152,000.

The average tax bill includes a levy of about $450 for education, which the city collects and transfers to the province. If the levy remains unchanged from last year, that would lower tax bills by 0.5 to 0.6 per cent, or about $10.

[…] When the city's $858-million draft operating and capital budgets were released in October, taxpayers faced an initial five-per-cent hike, an increase of $104 on the average tax bill. But that was reduced, in part because of a $9.5-million surplus and two-per-cent growth in the city's tax base.

Besides the tax increase, council has approved a 9.6-per-cent ($34) hike in sewer rates and a five-per-cent ($16) increase in water rates. Those increases will push the average annual sewer bill for a taxpayer to about $395 and the water bill to about $330.