By Frank Pullia
THUNDER BAY – POLITICS – Taxes are always front and centre as a major issue for our citizens especially at the municipal level. One of the reasons why I ran in 2014 was because of the concerns expressed by our residents on increasing tax rate. While we have achieved a lot in the last four years in generating budget surpluses without a reduction in services and bringing tax increases for 2018 below the provincial average, Thunder Bay property taxes are still too high.
I remain committed to financial responsibility and will work diligently on keeping taxes and water rates low for everyone while ensuring tax fairness across classes as follows.
Due to the losses in the industrial tax base since the recession, coupled by the fact that the Province is forcing a decrease in the commercial and multi-residential tax rates (currently paying 2.4 times residential rate) to bring them in line with the provincial averages, relatively more taxes are coming from the residential taxpayers and therefore keeping them low is a priority of mine.
Cities across Ontario including Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, have already moved multi-residential rates toward parity with residential and Thunder Bay is one of the last municipalities to take action. Unfortunately, the current reductions favour the Landlords who are not obliged to pass on to tenants any savings unless the reduction reaches a certain threshold under Section 131 of the Residential Tenancies Act.
My motion last year to lower multi-residential rates to meet that threshold would have benefitted the tenants without impacting any taxpayers as the funds would have been taken from the 2017 operational savings and not from reserves. The motion was lost by one vote and I want to thank those councillors who are also committed to tax fairness and lower rates for our citizens. Any future tax reduction would be done over multiple years through internal savings and growth and will not impact the taxpayers.
We have seen some healthy growth in commercial taxes that have allowed our city to recoup some the losses in the industrial sector. Stimulating growth through the reduction of red tape and bureaucracy in this area will go a long way in keeping this sector of our economy growing.
My 35 years of experience in budgeting and finance, and a proven track record of achieving positive results without reduction in services, will ensure that we continue on the path of fiscal responsibility by living within our means, setting priorities that are in line with the wishes and desire of our citizens (I favour plebiscites on major capital expenditures like an Event Centre), and actually increase services where they are needed the most.
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