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Vaughan mulls over 3 per cent property tax hike

Average homeowners' taxes would rise by $43, if approved
Nov. 8, 2016
By Adam Martin-Robbins

City staff are recommending hiking your property taxes by 3 per cent next year and it’s not clear if councillors will whittle that down as they’ve done in the past.

Vaughan treasurer Laura Mirabella-Siddall presented a report to the budget committee Tuesday, Nov. 7 with a proposal to increase property taxes by 3 per cent, or about $43 for the average homeowner with a house valued at $667,000.

If approved, that would bring Vaughan’s portion of the bill, which also includes taxes paid to the Region of York and to the province for education, to $1,430 - not including the $56 hospital levy.

The tax increase would go, in part, to help cover the city’s rising labour costs.

The 2017 budget calls for the addition of 41 full-time equivalent staff positions including six firefighters, four fire captains and a deputy fire chief plus an intergovernmental relations specialist and a manager of community engagement.

A small portion of the tax increase, about $7.3 million, would go toward the $114.1 million capital plan, which includes converting streetlights citywide to LED technology ($16.45 million), developing transit, cycling and pedestrian options for getting around ($4.18 million) and restoring the tree canopy ($2.54 million).

“Despite it being a long and challenging journey, staff from every department really did pull together, we rose to the challenge, and had to find a lot of innovative ways to do more with less and come together and meet the goal,” said city manager Daniel Kostopoulos, referring to council’s requirement to keep the tax increase at 3 per cent or less while meeting key priorities for this term.

Sill, Regional Councillor Gino Rosati asked if staff could bring forward options to reduce the tax increase to 2.7 or 2.8 per cent.

“I’m not saying we’re going to do it, but I would like to see you give us something a little different and then we can determine if we want to go there or not,” he said.

Kostopoulos said further cuts would likely result in lower service levels or would require a “relaxation” of council’s key priorities for this term.

Despite that, Deputy Mayor Michael Di Biase also seemed interested in exploring options for lowering the tax hike.

He asked pointed questions about proposals to hire more staff such as the intergovernmental relations specialist and a manager of community engagement.

But Thornhill Councillor Alan Shefman and East Woodbridge Councillor Rosanna DeFrancesca, chair of the finance committee, bristled at the suggestion further cuts could be made to an already lean budget.

“You come here and you say (to staff) go back and do better? Well, you know that residents are gonna lose if we do better than 3 per cent,” DeFrancesca said. “If you look at this budget book and see how tight it is, you’re gonna send staff back to cut service levels. There’s no doubt about that.”

Two additional budget meeting are scheduled for this month, on Nov. 14 and Nov. 28.

A special meeting to approve the budget is slated for Dec. 13.