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Region needs an education in taxes

Re: “Tax bills could skyrocket,” Nov. 9, 2016

Dear Editor,

I was puzzled by the claptrap (pun intended) attributed to Jim Clapp, the Region of Durham’s finance commissioner, specifically, “says a preliminary look at the latest property evaluations show that homeowners are going to have to shell out more of their cash when the tax bill comes, thanks to growing home prices.” Further on in the article, with reference to increased property valuations, Mr. Clapp is quoted as saying “Obviously, that will turn into an increase in their property tax bills and costs to them and the region.” Immediately thereafter, we read “Steve Parish, the mayor of Ajax, says that such a high increase in tax payments from the reassessment alone – not including the tax percentage increase proposed by the region . . . ” Then we are told that Parish said “A few months after that, people will get their first real tax bill. The reaction will be, ‘How could you pass a two per cent increase on the taxpayer, knowing that that was going to be on top, for many of us, a seven-per-cent assessment driven increase. Or eight, or 10, or 12 or 15.’” At the closing of the article, Mr. Clapp is quoted as saying: “I’m forewarning you that the questions from the taxpayers, it’s not going to be well understood, it’s going to be all over the map, and quite frankly, hoopla will start in June when they get their tax bills because a lot of taxpayers will not, probably, understand (that it’s) simply from reassessment.”

Well, count me among the taxpayers who “will not, probably, understand (that it’s) simply from reassessment.” Because it is hogwash and simply irresponsible to imply that increased home valuations automatically lead to increased taxes. Taxes are driven by expenditures and budget forecasts, so unless Messr.’s Clapp and Parish think they’ve stumbled onto a gravy train bonanza and are planning to look for ways to irresponsibly spend more taxpayer money, their comments are complete nonsense. But hey, don’t believe me, check it out on the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Ministry of Housing website, where you will read:  “If your property’s assessment value increases, it does not necessarily mean that your taxes will increase. Municipalities can, for example, adjust municipal tax rates to address the average impact of reassessment.” Municipal tax rates used to be called “mill rates” and they can and should be adjusted downward, in the event of large spikes in property valuations.

The explanation of the shift in taxation burden from commercial/industrial to residential homeowners makes sense, if reflected in property valuations. Even the suggested two per cent increase in Regional taxes makes sense in that increases in expenditures must, of necessity, lead to tax increases. But the suggestion that increased property values mean tax increases is unmitigated hogwash. I find it difficult to believe that our regional finance commissioner and the mayor of Ajax are sufficiently uninformed to actually think this. And I certainly hope that they don’t think we taxpayers are naïve enough to swallow such hogwash. What is “obvious” to them is certainly not obvious to the average taxpayer. If they truly believe the comments that have been attributed to them, in my humble opinion, neither are qualified for their respective positions.

Patrick Kelly