When is a tax increase not a tax increase?

Shell gameWhen blockheads don’t get what a levy is. This month, Collingwood Council voted for a tax increase that, through the admin’s sleight of hand, the bobbleheads believed wasn’t a tax increase. It was just the old shell game.

According to a story in the Connection (which also didn’t get it), headlined “No tax hike, but assessment increase will add to Collingwood residents’ tax bills”:

(Council) have also agreed to add a 0.75-per-cent capital levy, which will generate about $210,000 for the capital asset management plan.

A levy IS a tax increase. That’s why it’s called a TAX LEVY. Trying to call it by another name doesn’t hide the fact that it all comes out of the taxpayer’s pocket. It IS a tax hike because that’s where it appears: on your TAX bill. We don’t have a separate “levy” bill. We don’t send levy collectors house to house. It’s all dumped on our municipal property taxes. A levy IS a tax!

And Collingwood was reported to be one of the most-overtaxed municipalities in the province according to two of the CAO’s many consultants’ reports in the past 18 months. Wasn’t council paying attention when they were presented?

But hey, money grows on trees, right? Taxes, schmaxes. It’s only money. Your money. But now it’s their money. And they gave themselves a raise out of it, too.

This council doesn’t get it. The taxpayers’ pockets aren’t endless. We have a lot of people here on fixed or low incomes. We cannot afford more taxes. But council just keeps increasing taxes and utility rates.

And while councillors are clearly bamboozled by it, the public is not fooled by the administration fobbing off a tax hike under a different name. It’s just the old shell game. Find the pea….

But the article also says:

The strategic initiatives committee has approved a scenario that would see no increase to the 2016 tax levy.

But it ain’t so.

Administration has asked for $28,866,902 in operating expenses. That’s $1.13 million more this year than last year. That’s 4% more than they asked for in 2015. Which was more than 2.5% more than in 2014. That comes from taxes. And council bobbleheads nodded in agreement!

Basic math clearly isn’t their strong suit.

Cumulatively, this council has approved increases in operation costs of almost 7% in its first two years. Those are your tax dollars.

And they’re giving staff and THEMSELVES another, automatic raise. No share-the-pain for these folks. It’s entitlement and champagne all the way. Another bottle of bubbly James, we have an in camera meeting to attend…

Dancing a jigSo while the bobbleheads at the table jumped up and danced a jig thinking they were passing a 0% budget, they were actually passing an almost 5% increase in municipal costs! They weren’t savvy enough to see that the administration had palmed the pea…

Dance, fools, dance; the piper is calling the tune.

The only reason it won’t make your eyes bleed when you behold your tax bill is because of the cumulative effect of the boards of education and county levies being lower. The other tiers of government are behaving responsibly and holding a line on their expenses. But the spend-like-a-drunken-sailor approach continues at town hall.

Keep in mind that last term the average cumulative tax increase was less than 0.5% a year! Those were the days, eh? Back when council practiced fiscal responsibility….

And admin kept piling on the expenses this year:

The committee approved 13 items, which were identified as “unmet needs,” in the budget. These projects totalled about $164,000.

That may not seem like a lot, compared with the CAO’s $225,000 salary, but it all adds up. What are “unmet needs” if this council keeps throwing money at them? Admin merely holds out its palms and council greases them. Unmet for what, 30 seconds? Suddenly they’re all “met” needs. Can you find the pea?

The EB (not the most credible news source) reported:

The Town’s draft tax rate is currently set to increase 3.2%. When combined with the estimated County of Simcoe rate, and the Simcoe County District School Board decreased rate, Collingwood taxpayers could see an increase of 1.5% on their 2015 property tax bills. This means the average homeowner, with a property assessed at an average value of $269,961, would pay $3,391, or an additional $51 on their 2015 property taxes.

It added:

Chief Administrative Officer John Brown said the approach is useful and positive for council.
“This is kind of the big picture,” he told the Enterprise-Bulletin during a lunch recess.

By “kind of the big picture” did he mean that – again – councillors were not given detailled budget information by staff, and made their decisions based on incomplete data and the prestidigitation of the administration.

It would have been better if the EB had asked relevant followup questions like, “how is it useful for councillors not to be fully informed?” or “how is it positive for the taxpayers to have another unsustainable tax increase?” That, however, would have required actual reporting, not the EB’s forte.

Only one – Councillor Lloyd – bothered to ask for that complete information so he could make an informed decision. The rest just nodded their heads in agreement to whatever the administration demanded.

And we STILL don’t know how much the consultants and lawyers have cost taxpayers for council’s incessant, vicious assault on our utility services and partners. Or the costs for planning the secret sale of the airport. Or the costs of the secret deal with Ontario Hydro. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, I expect…

Ah, for the good old days when councillors actually read reports and questioned staff about the numbers in a budget. Ah, for the days when council actually fought for the taxpayers, rather than meekly gave in to staff’s endless money demands. Ah for the days when politicians weren’t too busy feathering their own nests to see how people in this town actually live. The halcyon days of last term seem so long ago…

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One comment

  1. The vote against the tax hike (aka the capital levy) was 6-3.


    As the mayor told reporters:

    “I don’t want to be associated in supporting the huge added burden and costs to our taxpayers, especially the seniors and those fixed incomes.” said Cooper. “I think that we are burdened enough with the tax because as it all begins to roll in it’s going to be upwards of 4% (after the county and school boards set their rates).

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