Like the last election I’ve made 30 promises this campaign, progressive ideas that focus on our neighbourhood priorities, supports stronger communities, and builds a better HRM. This is a detail policy blog that outlines three of those promises.
Residents deserve spending restraint, commercial tax reform, and residential tax flexibility.
Taxation for residents and businesses was an issue I spoke about passionately during the last election. I said then that taxes must fairly reflect the cost of services delivered in each tax area, business tax rates must be competitive, and tax rates must drop as property assessments increase, reflecting the rise in income.
Four years later, I’m still passionate about working the change taxation. HRM needs to keep dropping the residential tax rate to offset assessment increases, but it also needs the province to give it the power to make small business taxation fair, and to give condos and other types of residential dwellings tax rates that are more reflective of the actual cost of providing them with services.
Three of the last four municipal budgets have decreased the tax rate, and in 2016 the per-dwelling taxes paid by our residents are the lowest they have been in eight years. (Read more about it here.) This year’s budget is $1 million less than last year’s. I have worked hard to help Regional Council bring financial discipline to HRM after 12 years of tax increases. The work is not done. In the years ahead, we must work hard to control taxes and ensure the average tax paid per dwelling, adjusted for inflation, stays the same. I need your support to continue this important work.
I am proud to have designed Regional Council’s approach to commercial tax reform. I worked with councillors Tim Outhit (District 16) and Jennifer Watts (District 8) to request the province make a package of changes to the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter to allow small business tax relief. We asked for the ability to average assessment increases over three years, to have different tax rates in different areas (not just the urban, rural and suburban rates we have now) and for the ability to tax based on different measures, such as the size of a property or the square footage of a building.
Our plan will help shift some of the commercial tax burden away from small businesses and main streets. Now we need to hold the province to account: these changes are required to protect small businesses, encourage growth and stability downtown, and help Halifax’s economy grow. We must make sure the province delivers these vital changes to the Charter and make sure the business tax rates in the municipality’s core are competitive with those in other medium-sized Canadian cities.
Finally, HRM needs more tools to help Regional Council set tax rates that better reflect the cost of providing services to those properties. Right now, Council cannot give condo owners a different tax rate than owners of single-dwelling homes or establish different rural tax rates in different areas because the Charter only allows one urban, one suburban and one rural tax rate. HRM needs the ability to set different tax rates for different categories of residential dwellings. This would allow Regional Council to encourage desirable residential development with low servicing costs.
Halifax Regional Council has done good work to stop 12 years of runaway residential taxes and to address the current challenges facing our business community. But the work continues, and these three areas need to be addressed in the coming term.
- Keep average residential taxes paid per dwelling from rising by more than inflation
- Ensure the province delivers on essential Charter changes that will provide tax relief for small businesses
- Obtain tax flexibility for residential dwellings from the province