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Regional Council Committee of the Whole discontinues tax reform process
(26, January, 2010) - Following a debate today, Halifax Regional Council’s Committee of the Whole voted 13 to 10 against a motion to continue to explore moving off the current assessment-based property tax system.
In late 2006, Council selected a group of citizens and councillors from across HRM to form a Tax Reform Committee to consult with the public and return with recommendations for an alternate municipal tax system.
The Committee proposed a Draft Tax Model in March 2008 - a service based tax that included low and middle income tax relief. Following a second set of consultations amendments were made to include the introduction of a surtax on high value homes and Council was presented with a revised model in June 2009.
In September 2009 Council dissolved the Tax Reform Committee and assumed its responsibilities. In June and September, Committee of the Whole debated a recommendation that originated with the Tax Reform Committee. Council suspended its debate on the motion and agreed to participate in tax information workshops, two full days of which were held in November 2009.
Motion before Regional Council on Tuesday, Jan. 26th
The motion currently on Regional Council's agenda for Tuesday, January 26th is whether to support the proposed municipal taxation principles and explore moving off of assessment-based property tax.
A Need to Review the System
Tax Reform started in 2005 because of increasing public concerns over unfairness in the existing property tax system. Many citizens seemed to feel that the assessment-based tax system did not reflect the municipal services they had. In addition, there was concern that assessment didn’t reflect the ability of many individuals to pay their property taxes.
Tax Reform Committee
Following the completion of HRM’s Regional Plan, Council established a Tax Reform Committee in late 2006 to review the entire “Foundation” of the system. It consisted of seven citizens and six councillors from across the Region. Its mandate was to oversee the Tax Reform project including public consultations and recommendations to Council.
The Tax Reform Committee held a series of public meetings in the spring of 2007 aimed at understanding what foundations and principles should underlie any municipal tax system. Based on those consultations, it created a Mission Statement for the tax system with two key elements: "services" and "ability to pay". Only then did the Committee start work on options for the tax system.
The Committee studied municipal tax systems elsewhere in Canada and abroad and developed a draft tax model for public discussions. This model was based on a combination of "services" and "ability to pay". It was presented at a series of 13 public open houses in the spring of 2008, along with extensive background information and the impact of potential changes. Based on public feedback received, the Tax Reform Committee revised its model and presented it to Regional Council in June 2009.
Tax Reform Today
At the current time, Regional Council is debating whether to explore moving away from the current assessment-based tax system. These debates are expected to start sometime in January. The Draft Tax Model is one possible approach but there are a wide variety of possibilities. Should Council decide to make any changes there would be substantial public debate. Any implementation would likely be phased in over time.
On September 22nd, Regional Council agreed to participate in an information workshop that would explore the best tax system for residents of HRM.
The first day of a planned 2-day workshop for Councillors will be held on Monday, November 16th. The public may attend as observers.
The second day of the planned 2-day workshop for Councillors will be held on Tuesday, November 24th from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. in Halifax Hall, City Hall. The public may attend as observers. The agenda for November 24th will be posted when finalized.
Tax Calculator - Calculate your municipal property tax using the proposed tax reform (Single Family Homes)
Workshop - Day 2 (November 24, 2009)
The current municipal tax system is based on property values. The Tax Reform Committee believes a new municipal property tax system should be service-based and should consider the ability to pay.
What do you think?