Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When 0.155% is Deemed Too Big a Tax Increase

(Feb 25, 2011 edit: portions of this post appear in altered form in my article on the Torontoist)

This morning something unexpected happened to me. I began to watch the live stream of Toronto city council debating budgetary matters and was suddenly hooked. I don't know if it was Speaker Nunziata's saucy schoolmaster attitude or the overly sensitive councillors offended by such things as pointing and smiling, but I almost missed an appointment for a haircut.

Of course, I wouldn't have been so riveted if the debate hadn't been about something that seemed kind of important--like, oh I don't know, the money the city needs to operate.

Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14 - Parkdale/High Park) introduced a motion to raise the property tax rate by 0.155%. As Perks pointed out this would raise enough money to avoid the proposed service cuts to TTC bus routes, save the urban affairs library from closing, with a chunk of change left over that could be used for other things. He also pointed out that this would be an incredibly small tax increase, costing taxpayers between $4 and $9 for the entire year.

Sounds reasonable, no?

27 councillors didn't think so, as the motion was defeated 18-27, causing sane people all around the city to grab a fistful of their hair and rip it out.

But there were some good points raised in the debate about the motion (by debate I mean of course that everyone got to speak and no one listened to each other). Josh Matlow (Ward 22 - St. Pauls) made the observation that service cuts are all relative: while Rob Ford may deem some service cuts to be minor, the citizens affected by such cuts may deem them major.

Karen Stintz spoke about how she believed that it would be better to let the citizen's of Toronto figure out how to spend their $4 to $9 since the City has proven unable to do so in the past. I guess some of those people could pool their $4 to $9 together, invest it, and maybe in a hundred years they'd have enough money to buy their own bus. That's reasonable.

What was really on the table though was blind ideology against common sense city budgeting. Rob Ford was bent on freezing the property tax no matter what, so they were going to freeze the property tax no matter what. How else could councillors really justify cutting services as opposed to approving a tax increase so small that most citizens wouldn't even notice if no one told them? I mean, really, most people probably lose that much change in their couch each year.

Budget talks continue. Tune in.


  1. Things like this just irk me. The same is happening all over the US, as I'm sure you're aware. Do people not understand how long it's been since taxes were raised in some places? And how insignificant .155% is? errrrr