By Graeme MacKay – The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday August 14, 2014
Property tax bite still bigger in Hamilton than surrounding cities
(Revision of a cartoon originally published October 20, 2010)
Hamiltonians still spend more income on higher-than-average property taxes compared to their municipal neighbours — but the gap is shrinking.
The city’s latest tax competitiveness study shows the average residential tax bill in Hamilton is around $3,700, about 9 per cent higher than the average of 16 comparable cities across the province.
We also spend more of what we make on taxes.
Property taxes as a percentage of income is 4.3 per cent in Hamilton, where the average household income is $88,582. Only three cities on the comparator list fared worse, while neighbouring Burlington comes in at the low end at 3.5 per cent.
Property taxes as percentage of income
A selection of cities:
- Burlington, Oakville, Toronto: 3.5%
- Barrie, Kingston: 4% (average)
- Hamilton: 4.3%
- Oshawa: 4.5%
- Richmond Hill: 4.7%
On the upside, the numbers are improving. The city’s residential tax bill was 15 per cent higher than average 10 years ago, while property taxes as a percentage of income was a whopping 6.2 per cent in 2008.
But voters are clearly looking for better news, said several mayoral candidates.
“We’re moving in the right direction, but not as fast as I’m sure many of us would like,” said Councillor Brad Clark.
He noted successive smaller-than-average tax increases, including the latest 1.5 per cent bump, which ranks Hamilton as one of the stingiest budgeters outside of Windsor over the last four years.
“The issue of property taxes is still huge for people. Yes, we’re doing better, but people still feel overtaxed.”
Both Clark and fellow mayoral candidate Fred Eisenberger pointed to the need to attract new industry as an urgent priority to help spread the property tax pain.
“I’ve said it before: we don’t have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem,” said former mayor Eisenberger, pointing to successive years of lost businesses and an ever-shrinking industrial tax base.
“Priority One is retaining and growing our businesses to recapture that lost revenue.”
Hamilton homeowners carry a disproportionate share of the tax burden, with almost 87 per cent of tax revenue coming from residential properties. It could get worse, depending on the outcome of ongoing tax assessment appeals by large industrial businesses U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal Dofasco.
A recent reassessment of U.S. Steel’s waterfront property cost the average city taxpayer an extra $9 this year – and pending appeal decisions could claw back millions more from city coffers.
The city also faces looming spending decisions, such as how much to spend upgrading bus service in preparation for a possible light rail or bus rapid transit project.
Council must do more to save or redirect cash for needed infrastructure upgrades, said mayoral candidate Crystal Lavigne. “As a city, we need to set our priorities straight and address our needs before our wants,” she said. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)