City tax increase a rude surprise

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And one that residents won’t forget at election time

My first reaction to my 2013 tax bill from the city (first half)  was shock, and then despair. Then I got a little upset, then I settled down, and now I write to The Telegram.

It is nothing, absolutely nothing but a tax grab accompanied by a greed that is simply palpable in its sheer meanness and audacity.

Those in the know at city hall tell me it’s because there hasn’t been a tax increase in years. That’s not quite true but, true or not, it lays the blame on those who occupied the offices before them and that is only politics as usual.

The fact is my own bill increased by about 21 per cent.  

Recently, Coun. Danny Breen was in the media talking of increases from 13 per cent to 15 per cent, which of course might be the average but is just a way politicians have of telling a little less than the whole story.

Dismayed by reasons

What I found dismaying was his rationale for the large increases.

He explained that if you lived in the east end of the city, where all the pressure has been built up by commercial and real estate activity, you were more liable to have a larger increase.

Isn’t that discrimination? I live in the east end, I have a property exactly the same as yours in the west end, but because you live in the west end, you will have less of an increase.

But I want to come back to my real beef with this greed. I understand we live in a real estate bubble that may or may not be accompanied by a great deal of speculation.

St. John’s has known a couple of bubbles in its time: the one in the harbour used to smell to high heaven, but let me tell you that from where I sit, the present real estate bubble does not smell one bit better simply because the city is using the bubble figures as its excuse for the tax grab.

So, we live in a bubble. What do the mayor and council expect us to do: sell our bubbly houses to pay our bubbly taxes?

And look at the environment they are making this grab in.

Blood from a turnip

How many of the taxpayers in this city have not had an increase in income in years; not one per cent, not five per cent, but nothing — and the city wants increases as high as 25 per cent?

The grab is both  greedy  and mendacious, simply because in none of their election platforms was there ever any indication they would do this.

And no, I  don’t care that Andy Wells and company did not raise our taxes; that’s history.

It is not my problem and the present council should not foist that on us now. If you must increase our taxes do it gradually.

Have you ever heard of gradualism? For goodness sake, have some respect for the citizens of this city.

And yes, I’ve been told about your weasel legislation that allows property tax appeals.

How does that help the majority of citizens of this town that you are gouging?

By introducing the grab early in 2013, you are perhaps hoping all will be forgotten and lovey-dovey come September.

Dream on.

Wayne Norman writes from St. John’s.

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  • nl turf
    January 18, 2013 - 21:57

    The "Business Man" has been spewing his imaginary dribble for the past year. Please don't pay any attention to this guy/gal. He wants attention and he loves it when he is challenged on any topic. Here we go - he is a Lawyer, owns property in NL, owns Companies in NL, owns Companies in other countries,is a Landlord in NL, etc,etc, and yet this Business Man has time to comment on most every issue in the People's Paper. Yet, the man can't put a paragraph together without numerous spelling mistakes. 3 words come to mind - Fake Fraud, and Phoney!!!

  • saelcove
    January 18, 2013 - 08:26

    A business man, one question why are you paying taxes

    • a business man
      January 18, 2013 - 09:04

      I am not sure what you mean, but I pay taxes because I have to. Accordingly, I am always pushing for the elimination of public services and employees so that the amount needed from taxpayers will be less.

  • a business man
    January 18, 2013 - 08:15

    JENNIFER: Luck has nothing to do with being a home owner. It is about hard work, and making a contribution to an employer that is worth a livable wage. If you are just some uneducated unskilled person who does a job that anyone can do, then you likely do not make enough to buy a house. and I am okay with that. I own multiple properties and I acquired some before the price spiked and some after. Sorry to hear that you were squeezed out of the home buyers market, bu I am happy that the prices went up and are still going up because that means that my asset is growing in value without any effort on my part. Hopefully the prices go higher and higher. That said, I will not stop whining about taxes. Furthermore, it is not only homeowners who will pay for this tax increase. Yes, only homeowners are responsible for property taxes, but as a residential landlord, I will certainly be passing as much of this tax increase to my tenants as possible. Some may not be able to afford it and will have to move out. I am okay with that too. And lastly, from a business point of view, if this tax increase results in some people being unable to afford to keep their home, well that too is an investment opportunity.

  • Christopher Chafe
    January 18, 2013 - 07:55

    Well what else do you expect to happen when the Rubber Boot Crowd forbids anything of substantial height to be built downtown.

    • a business man
      January 18, 2013 - 18:36

      Exactly! You build upwards and ultimately get more people living where people do not live right now. This translates to more ratepayers within a fixed geographical area, which in turns means there are more people to divide the cost of taxes among. If you don't build high, then those on the ground are the only ones around to share the burden of sustaining the tax base.

  • Molly
    January 17, 2013 - 23:32

    The pension deficit has been increasing for the last three years, hardly a word said about it you had to dig through the budget.Had anybody heard why we are going to Harper with a tail btween our legs looking for 9 million? Surely the contracts signed protected the taxpayers from such things as project not finished on time!!! In the past the Dep. mayor was the head of the finance committee ,it is a bit obvious that she didn't want to wear this tax grab into the next election.I agree Breen for Mayor

  • NL TURF
    January 17, 2013 - 22:13

    Ok, let's put only 2 things in perspective - Our elected officials - all of them -- decided to lower the mill rate , but as usual, it didn't quite compensate for the higher property tax , which = Major Tax Grab . Now that in itself is pretty bad , but noooooooooooooooo that's only a joke compared to what they do next !!! Doc and Company decides to contribute over 1/2 of a million dollars , repeat, contribute 1/2 of a million dollars to the Port Authority , to put up a fence around a part of the Waterfront. Gueeeeessssss what , it's the Port Authority who has the total responsibility to erect the fence, but what do our elected politicians do and say ------------- "DUUUUUU no problem , we'll pay for half of it , seeing it makes the waterfront looks good to the 3 hr stopover tourists , from the Cruise Ships. COME ON SEPTEMBER! What a joke!!

  • a business man
    January 17, 2013 - 20:19

    As a residential landlord, I will certainly be passing this off to my tenants. If the tenants cannot afford it, then I will have to get new tenants. there is no way I am going to absorb this tax increase.

  • Jennifer
    January 17, 2013 - 15:04

    City taxes? That means you are lucky enough to be a home owner (or will be someday) That also means that you were lucky enough to purchase before the 160% increase that just keeps rising. I was squeezed out of the first time home buyers market long ago. Stop whining about tax increases, at least you are paying your own mortage and not someone elses by being a begrudged renter.

  • AJ
    January 17, 2013 - 14:27

    I Live in the East End and My Taxes went up 50%,how can anyone justify this.It's time to clean house.S. O'leary please run for Mayor so we can see the back of you.

  • Happily Retired
    January 17, 2013 - 13:01

    Jon, Unfortunately, development doesn't seem to be the answer. According to DOC, we're developing more than ever and we're more prosperous than ever. All we have to show for it is higher taxes. I'd just like to maintain the services we have now, but that's not happening. A lot of retired people are homeowners, but we have less income than when we were working. Why should we have to pay for Doc's useless projects like skating rinks at Bannerman Park. If the commercial developers are so great, let them pay.

  • Turry from town
    January 17, 2013 - 10:19

    Ms.reality....what have you been smoking? With the develpoement in the city our taxes should be going down or stabilizing.It's like buying a pizza,the more people who want a piece,the bigger the pizza you have to get.But everyone pays for a piece,but they don't have to pay any more.The larger the pizza,the more the pieces.

    • Jon
      January 17, 2013 - 11:27

      This is why we need to encourage more development (especially downtown). We have developers willing to spend millions but we get half a dozen people up in arms because they will lose their view of the oil tanks on the southside. Increased commercial tax base will curb the need to increase residential taxes. If the people demand more and better services, they have to be willing to pay a bit more.

    • Elim
      January 17, 2013 - 15:23

      Stick with sausage TURRY.

  • Jay
    January 17, 2013 - 09:56

    Ms Reality should realize that for many of us, our home is our home, not an investment! Councillors often use this"investment" ploy as a way to shut people down rather than listening to legitimate complaints about unfair taxation. The truth is that if council hadn't committed to a spending spree in order to buy themselves votes we wouldn't be facing such a huge increase in taxes. Quite frankly, I don't see why I should have to throw money at a new $40 million swimming pool in Wedgewood Park that I neither asked for, nor want. Nor do I want to subsidize a skating rink at Bannerman Park, or to pay for a needless fence on the waterfront. I'd be quite happy with improvement in the more basic services. But of course, those wouldn't get you any votes would they.

  • ms reality
    January 17, 2013 - 09:21

    No one likes a tax increase, its that simple. The fact that you can stick a "for sale" sign on your lawn and expect to make a substantial return on your investment (i.e your home) would only suggest you see a tax increase. Back in November the warnings went out. Explanations have been given (which in fact simply state the obvious). What bothers me is when people are too quick to point fingers at members of council. In this case Councillor Danny Breen is the target. After reading this letter, I was left to wonder if Wayne Norman sees the St. Johns City Council mirroring the story of "Robin Hood". Come on, Breen is chair of the Finance Committee, not the mean tax collector. I am sure he is not the sole decision maker of the city's financial matters. Because of economic growth in the city and beyond, property values have and are increasing at a very fast rate. Again, when property taxes are based on property value we have to face reality and prepare for the increase. That doesn't mean that I like it anymore than you, but it is REALITY. Other neighbouring towns are faced with similar increases and are receiving less services. Stop with the whining already!!!! I say BREEN for MAYOR

  • Anna
    January 17, 2013 - 08:06

    My taxes have gone up over $600 for the year. Imagine this is an election year and this Council doesn't blink at these increase. Imagine what will happen if we elect this bunch for another four years. My house hasn't changed, so I have no idea why I'm having to pay another $600 in taxes. The services we get from the city have decreased, they keep throwing money away on fences, street calming and crap like that and then expect us to pick up the tab. We need to put a stop to this now by attending more council meetings and voicing our displeasure and by electing people who have the taxpayers' interests at heart.

  • PensionMan
    January 17, 2013 - 07:06

    If you enjoyed this increase in 2013, just wait until the pension costs kick in, then you will have a great time. The storm has not started, winds are getting stronger. Google (saint John NB pensions )