Councils and taxes

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I wanted to compliment you for your Dec. 12 editorial on the challenges of growth faced by the City of St. John’s. I wanted to, right up until the last sentence: “Governments have to keep in mind that their dreams of progressive and constant expenditure growth can’t outstrip the ability of their residents to pay.” That’s where you lost me.

Municipal politicians don’t dream of constant revenue growth, they dream of being able to provide the services residents deserve.

Municipal leaders are keenly aware of the tax burden on residents. We hear about it more directly than any other order of government. In fact, municipal governments get only eight per cent of what you and I pay in taxes each year. The federal and provincial governments share the other 92 per cent. And because the law forbids us to carry a deficit, we have to manage that money well.

For that eight per cent, municipalities rely almost entirely on an antiquated, clumsy tax. Property tax is widely accepted to be among the most regressive forms of taxation — it does not reflect residents’ ability to pay nor does it adequately track the economy. It doesn’t work, not for local governments and not for taxpayers.

Provincial legislation dictates how municipalities raise revenue and the provincial government has agreed to work with us on a new approach. One that is fair to taxpayers, to municipalities and to the provincial government. One that broadens the scope of revenue sources so we are not dependent on three-year cycles of assessments. We will get to work in early 2013.

The challenge of growth is about more than how much it costs, it’s also about how we pay for that growth. With a tax used by William the Conqueror in 1066, or something we design for today?

Churence Rogers

president

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Dennis
    December 28, 2012 - 11:42

    Many municipalities have taxes spiralling out of control and it is not about "growth". Corner Brook is a prime example with taxes up about 40 percent in 4 years and almost 60% in 7 years despite a stagnant economic base. Corner Brook is not alone in seeing massive tax grabs despite an economy in decline. Frankly, it is ridiculous but people and boards of trade seem to tolerate it. I find it bizarre.

  • Don II
    December 26, 2012 - 18:14

    Who is Churence Rogers trying to kid here? The Municipalities Act permits Town Councils to engage in so called economic development projects. The Act allows Town Councils to enter into binding legal agreements with Government, Corporations and Not for Profit Corporations to engage in economic development projects. The Act also permits Town Councils to raise funding and expropriate privately owned land to facilitate the construction and operation of the projects. I am aware that in some communities, self appointed economic development experts, some of whom were formerly bankrupt, have run for election to or have associated themselves with Town Councils in order to promote their economic development projects at taxpayers expense. In most cases the projects do not undergo any due diligence such as financial feasibility or environmental impact statements. Because these so called economic development projects are promoted by Town Councils or groups associated to the Town Council, the Government of Newfoundland just rubber stamps approval of the projects. Who pays for all of this spending by Town Councils? The Town of Cupids is promoting a commercial marina project which is not financially feasible or needed. The Town of Bay Roberts has spent hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars to purchase a large tract of Crown land to develop a Business/ Industrial Park project in direct competition with private land developers. The Town of Bay Roberts also enacted stringent Heritage regulations that froze development of hundreds of acres of privately owned land on which the Town Council apparently still imposes property taxes. The Department of Municipal Affairs assists the Town Councils with these wasteful projects and never investigates the viability of the projects. This is blatant political propaganda and empire building which has now spread into Municipal Government. After all, didn't Premier Dunderdale make a big name for herself in Municipal politics? The Town Councils mantra is that all economic development projects are good. It is the property tax payers who will pay the bill for politicians and their buddies who want to play land developer and big businessman at the tax payers expense! I agree with Churence Rogers that property tax is a regressive tax. The property tax system must be changed or eliminated. Who buys the private properties which are sold by Town Councils for non payment of property tax? There are too many Town Councils in Newfoundland and Labrador and too much wastage of tax payer money on useless and unfeasible projects.

  • Shirley
    December 25, 2012 - 08:19

    Mr. Rogers wrote........."Municipal politicians don’t dream of constant revenue growth, they dream of being able to provide the services residents deserve." Actually Mr. Rogers, we do not elect municipal politicians to dream. We elect them to manage municipal affairs within the known "revenue streams'. We do not elect municipal politicians to impose what they think residents deserve or should have, we elect them to manage resources to ensure we have what we need. The problem here is simple, some elected representatives (federal, provincial and muncipal) think that town residents should pay for whatever they (the elected representative) feels they deserve.! That is what needs to change Mr. Rogers!

  • McLovin
    December 24, 2012 - 22:25

    Funny, if it doesn't work, then why do you continue to charge us for it?

  • Eli
    December 24, 2012 - 21:57

    You make some valid points Mr. Rogers but step back and look in the mirror. There are too many self-serving people on municipal councils with no more fiscal responsibility than a fly or this PC gvernment (same thing). You been out of the province lately on some useless junket? Fess up.

  • Gloria Stephenson
    December 24, 2012 - 18:04

    I am of the opinion there should be no property tax on my property.I purchase a home (Tax). From money I earned and paid taxes on. I am responsible for upkeep of this property along with repairs and renovations. Again taxed I insure my property also included in the total amount is taxes. Heat and light again taxed Council bill again taxed. Improvements or upgrades made to this property are taxed. Residents especially seniors are forced to sell their homes or go hungry because of the taxes forced upon them because they own a home, many times the mortgage has been paid in full long before retirement yet these people have to sell. All residents should and would be willing to pay for the services they receive from the city or town councils. If I have garbage collection I am willing to pay, snow clearing I am willing to pay water/sewer services I am willing to pay. However if I don't have water?sewer services I should not be required to pay(a reduced rate) for that commodity,no garbage collection No charge.We should not have to pay a tax based on the square footage or the of town or city area our homes are in. The real estate market seems to be the largest reason why property taxes rise. When the market is hot up goes the taxes unfortunately,when the market bottoms out those taxes don't aren't reduced. Owning a home is not a good investment for the home owner but it most definitely is a great investment for the cities/towns and real estate companies.