Vaughan promises to toe tax line at 3% hike
Jan. 15, 2015
It’s too early to say for certain how high the city’s portion of your property tax bill will rise this year, but it definitely won’t be going up by more than 3 per cent.
In fact, that will be the case for the next three years, as well.
Vaughan’s finance committee voted at Monday night’s inaugural budget meeting to set a ceiling of 3 per cent for tax increases during this term of council, which runs until 2018.
That means, for the average homeowner with a house valued at $587,000, the maximum tax hike for 2015 is less than $40 on the city’s portion.
(On top of that, you have to pay, the Region of York’s tax levy and the province’s education tax levy, which together account for about 70 per cent of your property tax bill.)
Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua tabled the motion to keep tax increases in check for the next four years after staff presented a draft budget and financial plan, meant as a starting point for discussions, that included proposed increases of 7.14 per cent, 7.58 per cent, 4.93 per cent and 5.35 per cent from 2015 through 2018.
“When I see these numbers … in my mind and in my heart I have the over 315,000 people who live in this city, right in front me, saying how are we going to manage these numbers knowing full well that there are so many other financial pressures?” Bevilacqua told city staff.
“These numbers may be correct as they try to address the needs that you as commissioners and city managers and the administration may have, but when it hits the reality of our people we need to be very mindful that people in the city cannot afford this kind of increase.”
If council votes in favour of the maximum increase each year during this term, the city’s portion of the tax bill, for the average homeowner, would rise by $38.37 this year, $39.53 in 2016, $40.71 in 2017 and $41.93 in 2018.
Yet some councillors appear keen to see those numbers go even lower.
“I’m not sure that we’re going to agree to 3 per cent. It may very well be less,” Deputy Mayor Michael Di Biase said.
Regional Councillor Gino Rosati was more definitive.
“I’m hoping it will be less than (3 per cent),” he said. “I would be more comfortable with 2 per cent, similar to the rate of inflation.”
But paring down the budget to reach even a three per cent tax hike will prove difficult, according to the city’s top staffer.
“This is going to be a challenge for the senior management team to come to these levels that you’re suggesting,” Interim City Manager Barb Cribbett said Monday night. “We will be turning over every stone in order to find a way to get there. … I think what we presented today is a number that we, as a team, believed would fulfill all of council’s dreams and visions for the future. And it was presented on that basis. Now we will go back and revisit that to determine exactly what level we can come in at.”
Vaughan is facing serious financial pressures as a result of inflation, costs associated with population growth, the need to build up reserve funds and an infrastructure funding gap, city staff noted during the budget presentation.
And the devastating 2013 ice storm has left the city facing more than $7 million in tree replacement costs ineligible for coverage under the province’s disaster relief assistance program.
To help deal with that, city staff has proposed a special levy, phased in over two years, to generate enough money to replace about 11,000 severely damaged trees.
While councillors supported keeping property taxes in check, they also voted Monday night to a slight boost in some existing user fees and service charges as well as the introduction of 16 new user fees and service charges.
The new fees and charges include fireworks vendor training and vendor permit ($150), re-inspection of a liquor sales license ($111) and a document search fee ($50), among others.
Those changes are expected to take effect Feb. 1, pending council approval, and are projected to pour about $100,000 into the city’s coffers this year.
The next budget meeting is scheduled to take place Friday, Jan. 23 starting at 9:30 a.m. at city hall, 2141 Major Mackenzie Dr.