Torontonians split on value of tax dollars – but should we pay more?

Watch above: Half of Torontonians say they get good value from their tax dollars. Alan Carter reports on why. 

TORONTO – Half of Torontonians say they get good value and services for their tax dollars, according to an Ipsos Reid Poll done exclusively for Global News.

That’s despite the same poll suggesting a wide majority of Torontonians – 90 per cent – thought it was becoming increasingly difficult for the average resident to afford the city’s cost of living.

And 50 per cent said they are living paycheque to paycheque.

But Rob Ford’s mantra of people being taxed too much may be convincing some. According to the Ipsos Reid poll, the number of people who say high taxes are the number one issue for them in this election has increased two per cent since 2011 from 12 to 14 per cent.

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So what do we pay for? The city’s operating budget in 2014 was $9.6 billion and the capital budget was $18.6 billion

Roughly 39 per cent of the city’s revenue was generated by property taxes, according to the operating budget. Seventy-seven per cent of the money went to the Toronto Police Services, the TTC, debt, Toronto Fire Services, TCHC and Parks, Forestry and Recreation.

Toronto’s property taxes are lower than most other major Ontario cities including Hamilton, Markham, Ottawa, Kitchener, Mississauga and Windsor. London is the only major Ontario city that doesn’t pay more in property taxes than Toronto.

READ MORE: Half of Torontonians willing to pay more to spend less time on TTC

And when compared to other major Canadian cities Torontonians pay less per $1,000 of assessment than most major cities. Only homeowners in Vancouver, and Calgary pay less.

Researchers at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto concluded the average property tax burden on Torontonians has been falling since 2004.

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Dr. Enid Slack, the director of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto said right now Toronto is fiscally healthy – but going forward, the city might not have the means of paying for needed infrastructure.

“I think we have a city with great services, if we want to continue to have great services and we want to increase service levels, or build the infrastructure we have to build, yes we’re going to have to pay for it,” Slack said in an interview Wednesday.

READ MORE: 90% say life in Toronto is increasingly difficult for average people

The Munk school researchers also said Toronto could face a funding shortfall if new revenue streams aren’t found.

That revenue problem might be most evident by growing backlogs for both the TTC and TCHC: $864 million in unfunded repairs for TCHC and $2.6 billion of unfunded capital projects for the TTC.

But when it comes to actually raising taxes, politicians aren’t keen to suggest taking more from people who already think life in Toronto is too expensive: Rob Ford built a career on it, Doug Ford suggested Wednesday he wants to cut the land transfer tax by 15 per cent and Olivia Chow and John Tory have said they can fix transit without hiking taxes.

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Stephen D’Agostino is a lawyer in Toronto who specializes in municipal issues. He wants higher taxes – it would help the city run better, he said – but also said he’s not sure people are aware of how much money the city gets from other sources of revenue.

“There are so many fees that aren’t on the property tax bill,” D’Agostino said. “If your kids are going to a pool then there’s a fee involved there, if you’re buying a condominium there’s a tax involved there. There’s all kinds of fees that are available to the city of Toronto, techniques to draw new revenue in that we don’t think of as taxes, but they are taxes.”

Ipsos surveyed 1,252 Torontonians on Global News’s behalf via an online panel between September 22 and 25. The survey is reliable within +/- 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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