Council remains split on the mill rate versus base tax debate

Tyler Clarke
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Coun. Lee Atkinson makes a case for moving $30 from an existing base tax onto the mill rate -- an idea only Coun. Charlene Miller backed him up on. 

A divided council passed the first two readings of the city’s property tax and mill rate factor bylaw on Monday, and are expected to finalize the process next week.


This will translate into a 4.5 per cent tax increase, placed entirely on the mill rate.

For the average residential property owner whose home is valued at $238,000, this translates into an added tax burden of $66.10 over last year, representing a 2.5 per cent increase.

A commercial property owner with a property valued at $507,000 will see an added tax burden of $493.10, representing a 2.4 per cent increase.

Although the city’s elected officials were unanimous in supporting the city’s 2014 budget, its implementation has received opposition from Couns. Lee Atkinson and Charlene Miller.

On the table is a debate of ideologies, between a base tax versus mill rate.

A base tax is a static rate wherein all property owners pay the same amount.

A mill rate is a rate at which property taxes are levied against a property and are dependent on the property’s assessed value.

Greater reliance on mill rates means that properties that are worth more pay more. Greater reliance on base taxes means that all properties pay closer to the same amount, regardless of their value.

On Monday, Coun. Lee Atkinson motioned to have an existing $30 base tax be shifted onto the mill rate -- a motion that Mayor Greg Dionne was quick to oppose.

“You’re moving that we don’t proceed with the $30 base tax for snow removal -- that we remove that item from the budget and that we add another 2.5 per cent on the mill rate, bringing our tax request up to seven per cent,” Dionne said.

Although technically true, the shift would be revenue neutral, overall, Atkinson countered.

All residential property owners would a $30 reduction in their base tax in addition to the 2.5 mill rate increase.

“It’s not revenue neutral,” Dionne responded. “It does quite a bit of shifting of the tax burden into different sectors in our community, whereas a base tax is equal and fair for all sectors of our community.”

Although the shift would, in fact, be revenue neutral overall, properties of a greater value would see their taxes up go up a touch more as a result of the shift, whereas properties of a lesser value would see their taxes go down a touch.

The exact implications were not made available to the city’s elected officials – a point Coun. Rick Orr made, noting that he might have considered the shift it not for the suggestion being made “in the 11th hour.”

“I can’t vote on something like that without knowing the whole thing,” he concluded.

In addition to the shift a greater mill rate reliance would have on residential property owners, Atkinson said that a key motivation behind the motion was to help small business owners.

“I thought it would be an exercise to give a little bit of relief to our small business owners in our community, because it would be based on the actual value of their business instead of a blanket rate,” he said.

Although the snow management base tax is $30 for residential property owners, it varies from $140 to $1,210 for commercial properties, depending on their value.

With only Coun. Charlene Miller backing Atkinson’s motion to shift the snow management base tax onto the mill rate, the 4.5 per cent mill rate increase remains council’s tentative means of dealing with the 2014 tax increase.

City council is expected to make their final decision during a special council meeting directly after the April 14 executive committee meeting. 

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