CORNWALL Ontario – A simple first paragraph of a news story has set off a fire storm of controversy between South Stormont Mayor Jim Bancroft and his council and the Standard Freeholder.
The township had actually cut taxes for the last year and term under former Mayor Bryan McGillis as the township tried to alleviate MPAC raises to property values. He spoke with CFN Wednesday afternoon via telephone from his home in Bonville.
Mayor Bancroft issued a statement at Township Council Wednesday night and covered by Reg Coffey in the South Stormont News.
In his statement he claims the story in the Standard Freeholder is not completely accurate. Mayor Bancroft said that the 12 % increase statement did not come from his mouth and it is not on any written document.
Hugo Rodrigues, emailed a response to CFN this morning where he made his position clear regarding the Freeholder story.
The revenue from property taxes is going up 12.2% according to the Feb. 11 draft of the budget posted on the township’s website. The overall budget — all spending with all revenues — is actually posed to go up more than 17%. Go ahead, do the math for yourself. Any suggestion those numbers are fabricated is absurd and desperate political move to try and explain away the increased spending included in this draft budget.
Earlier this year, we committed that in our budget reporting, those numbers are the ones we would report.
Reporting on any impact to an individual’s tax bill is a guessing game until the big number is finalized. To calculate any tax bill, a municipality needs to know how much money it needs to collect from all ratepayers in total to meet the expenses in the budget. Once it knows that and the total assessment, then it can calculate tax rates for each property class.
But even with the tax rates set, if your property’s assessment is increasing, it’s that new assessed value that will be multiplied by the tax rate to generate your bill. So if my property is worth $199,000 for this tax year, it’s a $57.39 increase? Well, if my assessment is on the increase — say because my property was worth $195,000 last year — then I’m going to be paying more than a $57.39 increase when I compare my final 2015 tax bill to my final 2014 tax bill.
Average values aren’t accurate. They’re averages. Reporting on them and sharing them as though they were an accurate depiction of what the change on any one property tax bill will be is misleading. People see the “average” increase and they stop there. Then they get their actual tax bill — with a different number almost every time — and get angry. There was nothing in our story — nothing — suggesting tax bills or taxes for the average home were going up 12.2%. Any suggestion otherwise is also absurd.
What’s not misleading is reporting on how much more money the budget proposes to spend. That’s what we’ve done. In a political environment in Cornwall and SDG where the Community Action Group made an issue out of comparing the taxes people pay here versus there without any useful context and where six of 11 in Cornwall pledged to “roll back”
And finally, if South Stormont council members have concerns with the Standard-Freeholder’s reporting, they’re always welcome to contact me directly to address those concerns. None have done so when it comes to this article.
Managing editor, digital and print
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