Councillor Brenda Johnson, keeping you informed about AREA RATING !

As a result of the recent Council Meeting, Council has directed staff to report back on the dollar ramifications of the report. This will advise the impact of area rating changes to residents in terms of % increase/decrease in property taxes.

Council is using the recommendations in the report from the Citizens Committee as a base for area rating and they are also looking at the Chamber of Commerce model for geographic boundaries in determining how area rating is applied. Currently area rating is based on former municipal boundaries.

The items that are being considered for area rating are Fire Service, Recreation & Culture, Transit and Sidewalk/Street Lights. Please note that sidewalk and street lights have not been area rated before, but the others are currently being area rated.

Many have asked why we have to re-look at area rating and they feel threatened that the City’s intention is to remove it completely. At this time, the city is not considering eliminated it completely, but rather making it fair. Currently, there are areas within the new City of Hamilton that are receiving the same level of service but are taxed differently because area rating is being done by former municipal boundaries and not based on the services you do or don’t receive and that isn’t fair.

What is being recommended for area rating is as follows:

Fire: There are 2 different levels of fire services that are area rated, they being full time service and volunteer/part-time service. The area in Ward 11 that will see the largest increase is the north section of Glanbrook that is considered urban, for they are being serviced by a full time (career) fire department. Conversely, those who have a volunteer service will also see an increase as a result of those urban areas taken out of the formula for paying our volunteer section and to offset the times when additional career staff our required for emergencies.

Transit; if you live within the transit boundary and receive either full bus or transcab service you will pay the full rate. If you are outside the transit boundary and receive no transit service, then you do not pay the transit levy.

Recreation and Culture; currently area rating exists for areas that have a lower level of service and the recommendation is to eliminate this area rating and have every household pay the full rate.

Sidewalk and Street Lights; this item has not been area rated in the past and is a new recommendation. It hasn’t been determined how it will be rated as of yet.

Councillor Johnson has always said that we should only pay for the services we are receiving however she is very concerned with the Recreation and Culture component of area rating. Ms. Johnson feels that the two should be separated and dealt with differently. It is understood that Culture is a city wide responsibility, but recreation is a level of service and rural areas are clearly receiving a far lower level of service. Brenda Johnson wants to see area rating for recreation kept in place.

Next Steps; Staff is to report back by mid April, 2011 with the financial implications of these recommendations.

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