Questions for TPRC on March 29
Why single out policing? Why not roads, waste collection, winter maintenance, parks?
Mr. Scandlan, I believe that if policing costs are going to be area-rated, so should roads, winter maintenance, waste and parks. They’re all common services, provided for the benefit of the community as a whole. If this were done, your analysis shows that any variation in police costs would be dwarfed by the rural surcharges for roads, waste and winter maintenance. In fact, as I calculate it the cost of providing all 9 services reviewed by the committee is $2.3 million more in the rural area than in the urban area. Has the committee considered recommending a surcharge on the rural area for roads, winter maintenance, waste and parks?
Policing, like education and health care, is a common service
Mr. Scandlan, we all pay for education and we all pay at the same rates whether or not we have children in the school system. In this country we all pay for heath care regardless of how much we use it. That’s because it’s a benefit to everyone to have a healthy and educated populace and it’s our duty to ensure that the next generation of Canadians will have the same opportunities we had. The committee felt that the same could be said for roads, parks and waste collection. They are all common services that we all enjoy. To me, policing is no different. We all benefit from the suppression of crime regardless of where police action happens to take place. And we all have a duty to ensure a safe, secure and crime-free environment for everyone to live in. Does not everyone in both have access to police services and enjoy equal benefit of having a safe community?
It’s about level of service not cost of service
Mr. Scandlan, all of the services that the committee decided not to area rate were ones that were considered to be provided at the same level as per the Municipal Act. This includes for example transportation which is a very large item where the rural cost is much higher than the urban cost. Yet, it seems that the rural group a pressing the committee to area-rate only one item, policing, based on service cost, and not on service level. Why?
Mr. Scandlan, we’ve heard that the Municipal Act permits surcharges for specific services only if there is a higher level of that service in one area than in another. Has anyone asked the OPP whether they consider that they provide different levels of service in different parts of Greater Napanee?
There’s been a lot of confusion between cost of service and level of service. The Municipal Act makes it clear that a surcharge is only allowed for a service that is provided at a different level or which is delivered in a different manner. If the OPP provides the same level of service everywhere what is the point of trying to find data on different cost in different areas. In other words, if we were to get the data in 2 or 3 years what difference would it make?
Where do you draw a line on a map for policing?
Mr. Scandlan, for 16 years we’ve had a map showing the border of the water-sewer area which has been used to divide our Town into two regions for tax purposes. That line has been changed from time to time without any approval from council and is hopelessly confused in the Vanluven Road area. And recently, we have been told that the reason we pay more has nothing to do with water-sewer because we already pay all operating and capital costs for this through our water bills. So, now the rural residents want us to pay more because they say we’re not as law-abiding as they are. My question is where and how does the committee propose to draw a line on a map dividing our community into the law abiding area and non law-abiding area?
Mr. Scandlan, while enhanced fire service may have a definable and logical boundary based on the hydranted area, there is no clear boundary line for any enhanced police service. If there is any difference in service level, it has nothing to do with chlorinated water. Where could council possibly draw the line that anyone in the community would accept between the law-abiding people and the non law-abiding people?
Administrative cost of 3 different service areas
Mr. Scandlan, your interim report suggests three small surcharges in 3 separate service areas, one area for sidewalks, a second area for streetlights and a third, the hydranted area, for fire. Some residents enjoy 1, 2 or 3 services and some have none. This means that hundreds of properties will have to be coded as to which area or areas they fall in and they may have one, two, three separate lines on their tax bills for the small surcharges for these 3 services. Has the committee looked at whether the cost of doing this is warranted by the small surcharges involved?
Drop the labels “urban” and “rural”
Mr. Scandlan, I believe we are all citizens of Greater Napanee and should all be taxed the same way no matter where we live. The terms “urban” and “rural” have created a great divide in our community and on council and I believe that all references to these labels should be dropped from our vocabulary starting tonight with the only reference being to special service areas such as “the streetlight area” or “the hydranted area” so that all citizens can understand and feel that they are equally and fairly taxed no matter where they live and understand the reason they are being asked to pay a bit more taxes.
The rurals have had a pretty good run
Mr. Scandlan, I question the 3 year phase-in and I hope that this can be explained to the public. I am sure many will feel, especially on the urban side, that the data developed by you and your committee clearly shows there has been no justification for a huge discount of 32% to some taxpayers, likely for the last 8 to 10 years. There may have been some rationale for a discount in the first few years after amalgamation but that justification is long past. In my view everyone should start paying the same tax rate starting in 2016.
If there’s extra police costs in the urban area, perhaps it’s caused by people who pay no taxes
Mr. Scandlan, if there are more calls for service in the urban area I believe it’s because the urban area attracts the less fortunate members of society some of whom originate outside the urban area. We also provide a home for their service-providers (women’s shelter, group homes, social housing etc) as well as the schools, courts, methadone clinics and other public institutions that the serve the whole town but still require policing. You dwell on fair and equitable in the opening of your report. Has the committee considered whether it is fair and equitable to saddle the tax-paying (and law-abiding) urban taxpayers with the whole cost of policing this sector of society?
Mr. Scandlan, we agree there are more police calls in the urban area but it is not because the taxpaying residents are any more or less likely to be committing crime than their rural counterparts. When you factor out the large amount of police activity directed at various institutions and businesses, there is likely no difference in the call frequency, and no case to be made to charge urban and rural taxpayers differently.
Mr. Scandlan would you agree that issue of police service calls in an urban area is very complex, and that there are some calls that should rightly be born by the urban residential taxpayers and others that should be shared by all taxpayers. We need to realize that there are many situations which can occur in the urban area, because of location and it is likely that more than 50% of the police activity is directed at these which include numerous schools, hospital emergency room, 2 court houses, all of the banks, restaurants and bars, SPC, drug stores, liquor store, beer store, fast food outlets open late in the evening, womens shelters, group homes, detention center, etc.
Prince Edward collects data ward-by-ward but does not area rate
Mr. Scandlan, I’ve heard the rural members argue that Prince Edward collects date on calls for service ward by ward. Yet I understand that there is no area-rating of policing or any other service in Prince Edward County. Do you know why Prince Edward County collects that data if they don’t use it for area-rating?
They asked for this study; now they’re trying to thwart the whole process
Mr. Scandlan, a year ago, a lot of us in the urban area were saying that no study could ever sort out the problem we have here. The Rural Ratepayers, however insisted on a study of costing in each area and I now have to agree with them that your study has been very informative in that it shows how much more it costs to provide many services such as roads, waste collection & winter maintenance in the rural area. So, I find it disconcerting that the Rural Ratepayers, who insisted on a study of service costs, now are trying to thwart the whole process because the study didn’t show what they expected it to show. Their strategy now seems to be to pick out one of the nine services, policing, and claim that the whole study should be thrown our or delayed because there is not enough data to prove what they believe to be true. I believe that it is critically important that this process should not be delayed.
Committee agreed unanimously at outset to eliminate rural discount
Mr. Scandlan, is it not true that the Taxation Review Committees accepted unanimously early in the process that the continuation of a rural discount could not be justified and that all ratepayers are to be taxed at one mill rate with only specific surcharges for specific services where there was a different level of service as permitted by the Municipal Act.
Rural residents continue to feel entitled to a “tax break”
The recent newspaper ad paid for by the Rural Ratepayers refers to the rural discount as a “tax break”. Lets be honest here, there is no such thing as a tax break. This isn’t like me going to Walmart and paying full price for something and you getting a 32% discount because Walmart has put it on sale for whatever reason. The municipality has to collect all of it’s taxes to provide all the services we need and use. The only way one part of the community gets a “tax break” is if somebody else pays part of their taxes. This study clearly shows that most services cost more to deliver in the rural area than in the urban area. When a rural resident here asks for a tax break he’s really looking around the room and asking some urban resident to pay part of his taxes. How can that be fair?
It’s only 8%
Mr. Scandlan, is it true that if council chose option 2, All Services Taxed on a Town-wide Basis, rural residents would pay only 8.90% more overall taxes than they do now. The committee unanimously recommended a 3 year phase in starting this year. Is it correct that under any scenario, this would result in a change of less than 3%/year of overall taxes in either area for the next 3 years?
Mr. Scandlan, our County does not area-rate any service and no other municipality in our County area-rates any service except Loyalist, which has a small surcharge for transit in Amherstview. Why is Napanee so different than Loyalist?
A lot has changed in 16 years.
Mr. Scandlan, a lot has changed in Greater Napanee and all across Ontario since the wave of amalgamations in the 1990s. In Greater Napanee, new fire halls and dry hydrants have been built in the rural areas. We have whole fleet of fire and road equipment to serve all areas. Waste pickup has been extended to all areas of Napanee. Planning and building inspection have become more professional and standardized. Yet we still have retained the rural discount which began in 2000. Is it not true that across Ontario the trend has been to eliminate or reduce surcharges for specific services as service levels become more standardized.
MPAC already considers service levels in setting assessment
Mr. Scandlan, last June two representatives from MPAC were here and told us quite clearly that MPAC considers different service levels in setting assessment. The reason is that assessment is based on market data, and the market is composed of hundreds of buyers and sellers who consider all the amenities when deciding on price. Is it not a form of double taxation to raise the tax rates for the same amenities that are already recognized by MPAC?
If we resolve this, we’re all winners
Mr. Scandlan, the taxation policy issue has divided our community and bedevilled our council and our staff for years and has caused a significant rift on council. There are a lot of challenges facing our council including a $30-million “infrastructure deficit” which will take years to remedy. I believe it would be enormously beneficial for council to put this behind us once and for all and for everyone to unite and concentrate on more pressing issues. I believe that if our elected officials just do the right thing and implement your report we’re all winners.