It is true that municipal taxes have been on the rise. In my opinion, much of the problem with rising taxes is caused by the greater issue of tax distribution -- where our overall tax dollars go.
For instance, every taxpayer in this nation lives in a town, city or regional district, and the infrastructure municipal governments provide is critical to the entire economy of Canada. Yet out of every tax dollar collected, 50 cents goes to Ottawa and 42 cents to Victoria -- while local government gets only 8 cents. This seems blatantly unfair and unreasonable to me.
Not only are senior levels of government keeping most of our tax dollars, but those few we can retrieve in the form of grants cost us money to get -- because our staff must spend precious time chasing those grants. And too often it’s the grant programs, rather than local councils, that set policies. I hope that in the near future, tax distribution amongst governments becomes more just.
I think North Cowichan has done a good job with the taxes they collect for services rendered.
I don’t think we’ve done a good job of educating the public about local taxes. My recent queries have convinced me that, until recently, this issue has fallen under the radar of many of our citizens. I don’t feel we can depend on the press to do our communicating for us. I’d like to see North Cowichan Council create a way to communicate directly with residents on such important issues. In the age of technology, this has never been easier.
The current tax collection system is very confusing, and I think its important to take every opportunity we can get to help people understand it. When I tell folks that the average home in North Cowichan pays $969 (2011) in municipal taxes, they come right back and say they live in an average home and pay a good deal more than that.
It’s true -- if you have a home of average assessed value (about $339,000), your tax bills are much higher than $969. For one thing, sewer and water rates aren’t included in that figure, because they vary depending on whether you live in Chemainus, Crofton or the south end.
But most of the “tax overbite” you see is because the municipality collects taxes on behalf of other agencies like the CVRD, ($215) the Regional Hospital, ($100) School District 79, ($743() BC Assessment ($21). North Cowichan has no authority to set those rates, but we are charged with collecting them -- that’s why they show up on your tax bill.
Finally, I think it’s important to note the great value we receive for our local tax dollar.
For about $81 a month, an average homeowner gets garbage and recycling picked up at the curb. Access to community centers, arenas and sports facilities around the region, as well as parks and trails. And a beautiful municipal forest. Public elections. Emergency planning and flood protection. Liquid and solid waste management. Planning and zoning. Police and fire protection. Storm drainage and road maintenance. Snow removal, traffic planning and control.
The 3.85% increase that Council directed staff to prepare for adoption will bring the taxes to $84 a month in 2012. Still a great value for all the services provided. Admittedly if the council decided to shift $ 275 across all property taxes from heavy industrial, it would take that number higher, bringing the municipal portion of the tax bill to about $114 a month -- but I still feel those services are good value for that amount of money.
Most of us pay more than that for our home energy, monthly gas bill or car insurance alone.