Council has approved a preliminary 6 per cent increase in property taxes but some homeowners, like Councillor Gord McKeever, could see their tax bill jump more than 20 per cent.
That’s because McKeever lives in a multi-family complex and the new budget guidelines for 2008 will see all townhouse/condo owners billed an additional $170 recycling fee, new this year. Last year only single-family homeowners and commercial owners paid the fee, set at $210. That will now drop to the blanket fee of $170 for every property owner.
In addition, the sewer parcel tax is increasing $135 for every property owner.
Right off the bat that’s a $305 jump in fees for McKeever, and all other condo owners, in addition to a six per cent hike in property taxes.
“My taxes are going to go up about 22 per cent this year,” said McKeever, who, despite the personal hit, voted for the tax increase.
The proposal, however, was met with some reluctance on the part of three members of council — Ralph Forsyth, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden and Eckhard Zeidler — and it just barely passed in a 4 to 3 vote, much to the obvious disappointment of Mayor Ken Melamed.
Like McKeever, who said his taxes have dipped about five per cent in previous years, the mayor said his personal property taxes have decreased roughly $500 since 2003.
“I know our family can afford this,” he said, while recognizing that it’s not that way across the board.
“It is not going to be a long-term increase.”
When asked the following day whether it was fair that people living in the least expensive homes, including the vast majority of the employee housing market, would see the highest increases to their tax bills, the mayor highlighted that condo owners have not been paying for the recycling service and the new fee is a correction of that inequality. In addition, the sewer tax is being applied across the board to pay for upgrades to the $51 million sewage plant.
“This is more equitable and I don’t think it’s accurate to say that simply because somebody owns a condominium that is worth less than a house doesn’t necessarily have less money,” said Melamed. “I don’t think that’s a conclusion that we can derive.”
He also alluded to another measure staff is working on that could provide further tax relief to resident homeowners. That proposal could be public in a month.
Since the issue of tax increases came up staff has been working on mitigating the $3.8 million budget shortfall.