A lesson for Guelph: How Port Colborne deals with keeping taxes low and gets the job done

Posted March 30, 2014

Our friend Brent Beam picked up the following report on the Port Colborne website that explains how that city manages its taxation of citizens.

It’s report that the Guelph administration and citizens should note. It proves that a municipality does not have to increase property taxes annually above the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to meet its agenda.

Call it serious and careful management of the citizen’s treasure and its ability to pay its taxes.

Published on the Port Colborne city website – February 13, 2014

Less than the price of one Big Mac is what it will cost the average Port Colborne homeowner more this year in blended property taxes.

The city’s chief administrative officer, Bob Heil, said Wednesday afternoon that for a typical home assessed at $170,380, it will be roughly a $4 tax increase for the year.

That’s a dollar less than the McDonald’s fare, fries not included.

Tuesday night city councillors unanimously approved a tax levy of just under $13.8 million, representing a 3.73% city tax hike.

But when assessment growth is factored in, plus a sizeable drop in education taxes (3.83%) and forecast reduction at the regional level that includes a base shift to the north, the net levy for Port Colborne comes in at just 0.14%.

Heil gave plenty of credit to the city’s 125 full-time equivalent workers who in recent years have been focused on saving taxpayers money.

“Every day staff are trying to find ways to do ‘it’ with less costs,” he said.

That’s as simple as saving small bucks on paperclips or thousands on vehicle replacements.

“This is the best team I’ve worked with,” Heil said.

City staff were working toward a directive from city councillors to keep costs in line with inflationary costs. But Heil noted that’s not always simple – the price of diesel for the city’s fleet of plows is one example of how things fluctuate over the course of a year.

“There are always challenges, you lose revenue, things change.”

Mayor Vance Badawey, too, championed his municipal employees for working toward a common goal.

He said the 2014 budget “reflects a very, vibrant, healthy, active community.”

And it’s one that starts to show the “payback” on major capital investments in recent years, such as for Vale Health and Wellness Centre and the Lock 8 skatepark.

He said the city is now in the position that it can shift its focus toward enhanced services and programs for residents.

And new this year, the city has set aside funds in the budget to ensure Port Colborne’s voice is “injected” into the province’s $26-million planning review for a new south Niagara hospital, and the related components of a promised urgent care centre.

Badawey said costs continue to be kept in check by also remaining committed to core responsibilities, such as reinvestment in roads, sidewalks and sewers, “versus trying to be everything to everybody.”

Way to go Port Colborne! It is a refreshing attitude that could well be adopted by our city administration. Wishful thinking won’t make it happen, only political will can do the job.

 Guelph citizens will have the opportunity this October 27 to vote for a council that will have the political will to make the necessary changes. It is the time to return power to the people and not the minority ideologues who have been running Guelph for almost eight years.

 

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