Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Inadvertant Creation of Poverty

First of all the mayor and councillors did a thorough job of vetting the budget for Springwater and did so in a prudent manner. I have no quarrel with the process or the results for the most part. However, the Springwater budget and the County’s future direction are unfairly burdening the low income families and their lower assessed properties with a higher proportion of the tax.

Let me explain the overall impact on your township portion of the 2011 tax bill. If you own a $400,000 dollar home you will pay $19.00 less; a $300,000 home $17 more; and if you are at the bottom of the heap trying to make ends meet with a $200,000 home you will pay almost $53 more. How does that make sense?

Part of the problem comes from the way the Springwater policing charges are being assessed in 2011. In the past everyone paid a $70 flat fee plus a mill rate based on property assessment. In 2010 you paid the following for policing based on assessment value, $155.11 for $200,000 home; $197.66 for a $300,000 home; $240.22 for a $400,000 home and $282.77 for $500,000 home. People with more disposable income in their $500,000 home paid about $130 more than someone in a $200,000 home. Sounds fair? In 2011 everyone will pay $194 regardless of assessed value. The new system adds a $40 burden to those that typically lack the means and are on fixed income, while those that have plenty will save almost $90. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I attended some of the budget meetings and heard the discussion and actually agreed with the logic that everyone should know what policing costs. I did not think of the actual impact of a flat rate approach on those that are less fortunate.

Both the Township and County appear to heading towards more user fee based systems rather than factoring it into the mill rate (sounds like a typical downloading scheme that we have seen with both the Federal and Provincial Governments). This will destroy those at the lower end of the scale as they will be overburdened with added costs. They already have less because of the impact of HST on the necessities of life such as heating and electricity. Everyone seems to punish them for being less fortunate. Does that mean that in the future road maintenance, snow plowing and recreation buildings will be fully funded by flat rate charges on the tax bill rather than part of the mill rate? That is definitely a departure from the concept of a cooperative community based tax system.

Keep an eye on Waste Management at the County as they move to a $2 per bag fee in 2012 rather than the costs being absorbed as part of the general tax bill. Again those at the bottom will pay proportionately more than those that can actually afford it.

I suggest you contact the Mayor, Deputy Mayor or your councillor and ask them to revisit their move to separate charges on tax bills for various services. Services such as policing and waste collection should be provided within an overall tax mill rate. Our country was built on the concept that those that have will subsidize those that do not. Picking up on a line from Michael Jacob’s last editorial in the Springwater News, I believe we are our brother’s keeper.