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Some Hamilton councillors speak out against any tax increases in 2021

Hamilton's general manager of finance projects a 4.2 per cent residential tax increase in 2021, assuming upper level of government again cover city's pandemic-related costs. Wil Erskine / Global News

Some members of Hamilton City Council indicate they are “not on” for any residential tax increase in 2021.

Mike Zegarac, the city’s general manager of finance, presented his initial budget outlook for next year to city councillors on Thursday morning.

He is projecting a $36-million shortfall to maintain existing service levels.

Read more: Hamilton’s forecast of 2020 budget surplus met with a ‘sigh of relief’

Zegarac says that would mean a 4.2 per cent residential tax increase, but not in the eyes of Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge.

Partridge says her residents are “really, really nervous” about finances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and she’s “very concerned about the ability to pay.”

She said she’s “not on for any tax increases,” while Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark is also opposed, stressing that residents are using their lines of credit now, or credit cards, and “that ain’t a good solution to this, as we all know.”

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Read more: Coronavirus: Hamilton to get $44.8M in 1st round of Ontario’s emergency funding

Zegarac says a 4.2 per cent tax increase would amount to just under $150 for a Hamilton property valued at $380,300.

As well, his projection assumes that the federal and provincial governments will again cover the cost of Hamilton’s pandemic-related pressures, estimated next year between $34 million and $59 million.

Much like this year, Zegarac says those pressures will be in areas such as housing services and emergency shelters, public health investments, transit and foregone recreational program revenues.

Read more: Chief says public safety would face ‘significant impact’ if Hamilton police budget cut by 20%

If the upper levels of government didn’t bridge the gap next year, Hamilton’s potential residential tax increase would jump to between 7.8 per cent and 10.5 per cent.

Zegarac’s presentation shows an average tax increase across the city of 2.2 per cent over the past five years.

It also indicates that 4.6 per cent of household income goes toward property taxes in Hamilton, still one of highest rates in the province.

Zegarac says Hamilton’s household incomes are about 13 per cent lower than the average across 19 “comparator municipalities” throughout Ontario.

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