Many Tiny Township residents were surprised and upset at the nearly 11 per cent increase in their taxes following the 2023 budget discussions over the winter months, wishing they had a greater say in the matter at the time. 

At the recent regular meeting of council, the announcement of the 2024 public budget survey was discussed with attention paid to getting greater community involvement and feedback.

Running now through Aug. 31 of this year, printed copies of the survey will be available at the Tiny Township municipal office, located at 130 Balm Beach Rd W. Additionally, surveys will be provided on the township website.

Coun. Steffen Walma praised the staff report containing the draft survey of 16 questions, but shared concerns that residents might get confused by questions not explicitly addressing the blended rate calculation taxpayers receive directly.

“We mention that 45 per cent of property taxes go to Tiny, which leaves the other 55 per cent which is split between the county and the education system,” Walma said.

“When council in the past – and I’ve been guilty of this myself – have tried to rationalize some of the expenses that we incur, we’ve used what’s happened at other levels of government to help support our decision making.”

Walma looked for help from staff and fellow councillors to see if better wording or additional questions could be provided for residents, as the blended rate – municipal, county, and education – which taxpayers see on their bills (approved in 2023 at a 5.96 per cent increase) is a different amount than the municipal taxation debated by council at budget time (10.82 per cent increase).

“Because that’s what people see,” Walma added. “They don’t just see Tiny’s portion, they see that blended rate that we’ve talked about before.”

Mayor Dave Evans agreed with Walma’s view that public understanding of blended rates wasn’t clear, but didn’t feel suspending the survey for corrections was the answer.

“Personally, I’d like to see this go out because the more time it’s out there, the more opportunity we get for people to engage with us,” said Evans, who included the July 8 community barbecue in Perkinsfield as a prime location for public engagement, “and then we’ll follow up subsequently  – we’ll look at options on educating the public on how their tax rates are collected and distributed moving forward.”

CAO Robert Lamb also grasped Walma’s concerns, but advised that running the township as a business meant council would need to ultimately decide on setting the tax rates, and choosing whether other levels of government would influence those numbers prior to the decision.

“The bigger problem all along,” said Lamb, “is we’ve been mandated to raise and to collect everybody’s taxes both at the education and the county, and we actually don’t get paid and reimbursed for that action either. It is all done at our dime, but we only get to keep a certain portion of it.”

Lamb added that while municipalities own and maintain 60 per cent of public infrastructure assets across Canada, only eight per cent of all taxation revenue is received.

“The bigger conversation is, ultimately, how do we get those numbers changed around so that the residential taxpayer – or the taxation portion as it relates to property – doesn’t spend most of its money on all of the infrastructure (and) we start to receive other forms of taxation revenue within this country,” said Lamb.

Tiny Township has roughly 13,000 residents for population, and in the 2022 municipal election of 19,000 eligible voters just 6,450 cast ballots for a 34 per cent turnout to choose the municipal leaders through to 2026.

In the public survey for the 2023 budget, 287 Tiny residents provided input; for the 2022 budget the number of respondents was 275.

In neighbouring Penetanguishene last year, a public outcry occurred when a similarly small percentage of responses were received for their 2023 budget survey, prompting a budget-focused town hall meeting shortly after.

Further information on the 2023 public budget survey can be found on the Tiny Township website.

Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny Township’s YouTube channel.

By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 06, 2023 at 14:19

This item reprinted with permission from   Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
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