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LETTER: Taxes didn't have to go up

Our local radio station reported the Town of New Glasgow has raised tax rates by 1.1 per cent.  
According to the radio report, Mayor Dicks has stated that “council has no choice.” With all due respect, xouncil does (or at least did) have choices. Had council undertaken the efficiency review promised in the mayor’s 2016 election campaign and implemented even some of the efficiency measures which I am certain would have been identified, council could have presented a budget with a significant reduction in tax rates instead of the announced 1.1 per cent increase.
According to the radio report the increase is ”the first increase in 14 years for homeowners.” However, even when tax rates aren’t increased, tax bills do increase each year for most properties due to assessment increases. In the eight years between 2010 and 2018 (data unavailable for other years), the capped assessment increase totals just under 15 per cent. Thus, despite no increase in New Glasgow tax rates up to 2018, the property tax bill for most residents would have been 15 per cent higher than in 2010. For 2019 the capped assessment increase is 2.9 per cent over 2018 levels. This means that, with the increase in both tax rate and assessment, most New Glasgow residents will be paying 4 per cent more than last year. Some will argue that increases in assessment are beyond the control of council. True, but council can, and should, reduce (rather than increase) tax rates to offset the assessment growth.  
New Glasgow council has further assaulted the resident’s pocketbook with substantial increases in the user fees that it levies.  In just five years between 2013 and 2018 pollution control (sewer system) rates were increased by over 50 per cent and solid waste collection levies were doubled.  For the average homeowner these charges totalled roughly $365 in 2018 – up from $216 in 2013.
To summarize the impact of our “first increase in 14 years,” a home assessed at $100,000 in 2010 would have paid property taxes and user fees of approximately $2,025.  The same homeowner today will be paying $2,520 - a full 25 percent higher than for 2010. No doubt increases would have been seen in the remainder of the 14 years as well.
In a previous letter (published online Feb. 13), I noted that the mayor had campaigned in part on an open and transparent town hall. True transparency would have told local residents that they will be paying 4 per cent more in 2019 over 2018 and a full 25 per cent more than nine years ago.  A truly open council would not have hidden this reality behind the smokescreen of tax rates. And a truly effective council would have found ways to reduce costs and avoid the need to Increase taxes.

Brian W White CPA,CA

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