City pays more than its share

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Over the last few weeks there has been extensive discussion about the St. John’s city budget. Surprisingly, there has been little if any discussion about taxation for St. John’s taxpayers relative to surrounding towns and municipalities.

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The fact is, that in these difficult economic times, and in light of the challenges faced by all levels of government, it’s an issue that I believe warrants further discussion.

In its recent budget, Mount Pearl budgeted a residential a mill rate of 7 compared to the St. John’s rate of 7.8. In practical terms, that represents around $250 less in taxes on a home valued at $300,000. It seems to me that the reasons for the lower mill rate, at least in some respects,  are somewhat obvious. The taxpayer in St. John’s is supporting considerably more infrastructure than residents of the surrounding communities.

Consider for a moment the road maintenance, the snowclearing, Mile One,  the soon to be re-opened Convention Centre, Bowring Park and other parks around the city, and the list goes on. All of these facilities are supported exclusively by the St. John’s taxpayer. This would be of no relevance to communities outside St. John’s were it not for the fact that all of us in the metropolitan area can avail of the first-class hockey and entertainment available because of Mile One. We can all enjoy the wonderful recreation option the skating Loop in Bannerman Park provides, and the roads and the other infrastructure that helps to keep our collective economy going.

Look at the gridlock we would have were it not for Team Gushue Boulevard, yet the city carries all the cost — that’s just one example. Needless to say, these costs put our city council in a difficult position.

All that being said, and if for no other reason, there is a case here of fundamental fairness to capital city taxpayers that needs to be addressed. Perhaps the new provincial government can address this issue when it develops its next budget.

No one wants to pay extra taxes, but perhaps the city can be compensated in some way for the significant common services it provides.

Paul Green

St. John’s

Organizations: Convention Centre

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Bowring Park, Bannerman Park Team Gushue Boulevard

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Recent comments

  • common sense
    January 15, 2016 - 10:56

    I truly feel that what this article is saying is common sense. I for one have thought of this often while driving around in St.John's and having my kids enjoy their parks and recreations.Why should St.John's home owners have to pay for everything but yet everyone get to avail to the services. I think that there should be a levy put in place and that all communities in the surrounding areas should have to pay it yearly to St,John's. In regards to amalgamation that is ridiculous in no way was this article even going in that direction. Some people just don 't read or should i say they read what they want to read! I know some people will not like my suggestion but honestly if my taxes went up by $25-100 I wouldn't be upset if it was going to this cause. There is always room for improvement but this would be a step in the right direction.

  • Temporary St. John's resident
    January 15, 2016 - 08:41

    I rent in outskirts of St. John's. I'll be buying a home elsewhere. I've had enough of being treated like a second class citizen when it comes to services. I have no doubt under amalgamation all the other communities would be second class. The abysmal snow clearing alone is enough to make me not want to be a resident. And what solution did St. John's city council come up with? Spend more money down town, they never increased their snow clearing resources, they just took services away from the residential areas. I have no interest in mile one or the parks. I don't venture down town at all if I have a choice. And it's not lack of snow clearing keeping people away. It's parking issues partly caused by St. John's council's fear of tall buildings. And I certainly don't want my taxes being used to tear up half of torbay road 5+ years in a row without anyone ever asking why they didn't fix it right the first time.

  • Not a townie
    January 14, 2016 - 20:29

    We pay to use these venues so it's not free or borne solely by St. John's. If they are losing money then look at your fee structure. The loop was a decision by the city so your point is moot. Team gush use is a 50/50 federal and provincial project, the city has yet to contribute a cent to its construction or maintenance activities to date

    • Paul
      January 15, 2016 - 09:19

      You're missing the point, the common infrastucture is being used by all residents of the area. It's well utilized, necessary and appropriate to our quality of life. Team Gushue is an obvious case. As to that road you have missed or ignored the point! "The highway construction is funded by the federal and provincial governments, but will be owned and maintained by the City of St. John's upon completion."

    • Not a townie
      January 15, 2016 - 13:35

      You missed the point. Your article states the city carries all the costs for the tgh, I was just pointing out your error. I don't use these rec facilities etc in St. John's so don't expect me and others like me to pay for them. The facilities I use, I pay my fees as they set out as part of their fee structure. A lot of this infrastructure was paid through cost shared programs with other levels of government so don't expect us to pony up anymore money for them now.

  • BS
    January 14, 2016 - 16:39

    Amalgamation with St John's is such a silly, foolish, and ridiculous notion, benefitting only St John's and reducing and degrading services now enjoyed by Mount Pearl, Paradise, and surrounding communities. Southlands residential streets today, for example, were thick, humpy bumpy sheets of ice, and Kenmount Terrace and residential streets around Stavanger often are the same. St John's can't properly look after it's own expansions, let alone take on other communities, who have real people on their councils, and not a crowd whose main agenda is self promotion.

  • Mark
    January 14, 2016 - 14:00

    Mount Pearl council will have us believe that their lowering of the mil rate from 7.4 to 7.0 for the 2016 tax year is good news for the tax payers. What they have failed to advertise is that the 2016 city budget pf $49.5 million is $5.4 million, or 12.3%, higher than in 2015. People need to keep in mind that the mil rate is only a calculated value that is determined by dividing the amount the municipality needs to raise from property taxes by total taxable assessment in the municipality (and then multiplied by 1,000 to become dollars of tax per $1000 of assessed value). The more important thing to look at is actual dollars in the budget and how well the municipality is spending our dollars. On that basis I don't see either the City of St. John's or the City of Mount Pearl passing the test of good governance. Other jurisdictions have successfully amalgamated their municipalities. It's time for us to get over ourselves and our quaint little sleepy hollow municipalities in this province that all require their own governance and locally provided services and get on with amalgamation and a redesign of services from the ground up. Let's start by setting an example for the rest of the province here on the northeast Avalon.

    • Dolf
      January 14, 2016 - 15:06

      You're absolutely right Mark. CBS for one is totally out of control, almost as many Chiefs as Indians. They're about to open a new fire hall that rivals Macy's in New York for appearance, a new rec center that's a million dollars over budget, and a just occupied Town Hall that puts council's opulence in the stratosphere. There's no industrial tax base to support such grandeur so the tax payers have to pony up.

    • Paul
      January 14, 2016 - 16:50

      I think you're absolutely right but unlikely it will happen voluntairily! Great analysis!

  • BS
    January 14, 2016 - 12:46

    Sour grape jealous townies; get your own house in order and stop blaming other communities, which are run much better, for your woes. There is no community at all in the whole province who would want to be a part of and governed by St john's.

  • Paul
    January 14, 2016 - 12:01

    Criticize council all you like but the fact remains significant common costs are being born by the St. john's taxpayer to the benefit of Mt. Pearl, Paradise etc.

    • ROK
      January 14, 2016 - 14:56

      Randy Simms refused to co-fund the Team Gushue Highway because it really is a provincial, not local, highway. But O'Keefe's ego dictated otherwise.

  • ThinkAgain
    January 14, 2016 - 11:22

    @ Ken ... an over abundance of councillors? Think again. On a per capita basis Mt. Pearl has 1 elected official for every 3469 residents ... St. John's has 1 elected official for every 9652 residents (based on 2011 StatCan data). Seems to me Mt. Pearl could loose a couple of councillors.

    • Paul
      January 14, 2016 - 12:33


  • Errol
    January 14, 2016 - 08:41

    If anything, you have just made a case for amalgamation, or at least, a form of regional Government. NL is the only Province in Canada without County, Township, or Regional Governments. We are disadvantaged by this across the whole Province, not just the St. John's area.

    • Ken Collis
      January 14, 2016 - 10:03

      Exactly the opposite, I'm afraid. Without being able to identify exactly how much we are being gouged, regional councils would be able to do as they please. Look at St. John's, where council advertises how much they save the people by early retirement of senior workers, pension plan adjustment, etc... but still require at least 11% more in taxes when their fuel costs are 35% less and the cost of living grew less than 3%.

    • Errol
      January 14, 2016 - 11:16

      Ken-The issues you speak of relate to competence of councils...not the form. I have lived under Regional Governments, Amalgamation, as well as a County system. All have advantages over what we currently have in NL.

  • Thatguy
    January 14, 2016 - 07:26

    Hear, hear!

  • Ken Collis
    January 14, 2016 - 06:29

    Don't forget the cost of the harbour fence, the over abundance of councillors, the extra $200,000 for an unnecessary by-election, the constant re-zoning of property in conflict with the city plan, trying to buy land from Galway at a ridiculous price, big cash giveaways to professional hockey teams, and the list goes on.