Archive for ◊ April, 2009 ◊

05 Apr 2009 Tax Increase, to tax or not to tax
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We are at the same cross roads as we are each year at this time, do we increase the taxes or do we hold the line or even lower the municipal taxes we levy against our residential and commercial landowners.
The taxes each year are a discussion that is built around discussions of “millrate” charged. The discussion regarding what a millrate is will be a topic in another segment in the future.
My issue is around the taxes that we as a city require for our community benefit and those that the Hanover School Division levy as part of their needs.
Over the past three years I have voted to hold the taxes to a 0 increase and will do so again this year.
In my term as councillor the city raised the taxes by 1 mill last year from 15.80 mills to 16.80 mills. That increase puts about $350,000 into the city budget for projects.
The Hanover School Division has raised the mill rate from 23.30 to 24.24 for this year. Looking back to 2000 and each successive year the HSD has raised the mill rate from 13.30 in 2000 to 24.243 in 2009 an 82% increase. The City of Steinbach over the same period has acutally decreased the millrate by 7%.
But lets look at the dollars involved. in 2000 the HSD levy paid by the City with taxes that the City collects on behalf of the HSD was $2,443,880, in 2009 the bill will be $8,797,583 a 260% increase.
But we are a growing region as our population has seen tremendous growth, HSD levy per student in 2000 was 399.65 in 2009 it is 194% higher at $1,174.48. The number of students served in 2000 was 6115 and in 2009 was 7497 a 23% increase.
Now all of this is just numbers that we can shuffle and adjust to make our own assesments and comments as we choose. As anyone knows it is numbers that can be twisted and made to look or read as one chooses.
The system of having a local municpality collect tax dollars for the local school division needs to change. Just because one has the power to tax doesn’t mean good managment of those tax dollars.
Being able to increase revenue at will, through tax increases, does not make them accountable for those increases. Especially in our current system of having the local municpality collect it for them. Over the last years the tax bill is indicating what portion of the tax bill belongs to whom. In 2009 59.07% of your municipal tax bill will go to the HSD.
But what is the HSD to do? Currently the only form of revenue it has is to tax thru the millrate.  The same province that holds them to funding formulas that are the same for school divisions that have an increase in student enrollments are the same as those that are stuggling with reduced students enrollments. 
Manitoba is now the last province to allow school divisions to set mill rates at levels of there own choosing. Recently the second last province to eliminate this system was Saskatchewan where they established a province-wide millrate so all property owners pay the same rate of taxation. Any shortfalls would come from general revenues.
In this year where many are struggling with our economic realities, deferring retirement plans and anxious about job layoffs it just seems wrong of the school divisions to again raise taxes when everyone else is holding the line.
Each of us as taxpayers need to make sure we are educated to why we pay the taxes we do to where ever they go, then hold those elected to make those decisions accountable for there actions.
As a city councillor I struggle with our current reality of collecting the HSD taxes without being able to respond in anyway to the taxes being charged. At some point our Province needs to get on board and deal with this situation.
You as a taxpayer need to hold your elected more accountable every year not just at election time.