Thursday, 23 October 2014

How taxes work for you


Taxes are nobody’s favourite. Most people don’t enjoy paying them and don’t enjoy talking about them either. Doing both is important, though. Since property taxes provide the annual budget for crucial city services, Londoners need to understand how they work and so we can discuss how to make them work better.

There’s a brief video by the City of London that explains how property taxes are calculated – using the cost to provide services and the value of properties. It’s even more important to understand where this money goes. Even if you’re not a homeowner, you pay property taxes indirectly through your rent.

About 15% of your property tax bill is a provincial tax to fund education. The rest goes into the annual budget for city services. That includes everything the city provides  police, fire, and ambulance services, roads, sidewalks, transit, parks, trails, museums, recreation centres, and libraries. A breakdown of how much goes to each of those services is available on the city Web site.  Keep in mind that Ontario municipalities receive only 9% of total tax revenues, yet are responsible for over 50% of the infrastructure.


These are things we need as a city, so obviously I can’t promise to make your taxes go away if I’m elected. What I can promise is that I will consider with every decision and vote, whether the proposal at hand provides good value for taxes that Londoners pay. I also will strive to provide you with clear information on how well the city is delivering its services. The city has a responsibility to provide the services that Londoners rely on. It also has a responsibility to collect only as much in tax as it needs to deliver those services, and to do so in a fair and transparent way.

That doesn’t mean we can get rid of everything that isn’t police, garbage collection, or transit. The other parts of the city budget – things like culture and recreational facilities – are also crucial to making London a good place to live, but they need to make sense.

Part of being respectful of the taxes that Londoners pay is making sure that the city grows in a responsible and sustainable fashion. As noted in The London Plan, all growth patterns are not created equal. The more spread out the city becomes as it grows, the less efficient and the more expensive it will be to provide adequate transit, waste removal, and utility services. That means the city would need a higher tax rate to provide these required services.

On the other hand, if London grows in a more compact way – growing up rather than out in areas that can handle it, and finding infill projects that are a good match for the existing community – it will be much easier and less expensive to maintain and improve city services.

On council, I will support budgeting and planning decisions that provide Londoners with good value for the public dollar. I will work to ensure that your taxes are spent in meaningful ways that improve the city, that we take into account how we are going to provide services over the long term, and that you have access to information about how well the city is doing on both of those things.

Taxes still may not be your favourite thing, but you can have more confidence in how they are being used to build and maintain our city.