With Brantford’s 2013 tax budget finalized (pending final approval in February), I want to commit to something publicly. First, because it makes me accountable for actually completing this work some time in 2013. Second, because I think the information that will arise as a result will be extremely valuable to anyone interested in property taxes in this city.
All too often, I’ve heard Brantford’s property taxes are higher than everyone else’s. I used to hear this complaint when I covered budgets in Woodstock / Oxford County as well. Really, who *likes* paying taxes and who wouldn’t prefer paying a lot less of them?
We’ve all seen comparisons (usually produced by municipalities themselves) that try and show how taxes in city A compare to taxes in city B. Or a comparison of how their tax rates look against others. All of the ones I’ve seen always have a critical flaw. They use house values as the constant figure across the board. They tell you the taxes you’d pay on a $218,000 home in city A, or B, or C.
There’s a huge problem with that approach. As anyone who’s moved from community to community can tell you, a house in city A does not cost what it could in city B. The money it takes you to buy a certain kind of house in city A is not equal to what it requires to buy a similar house in city B.
Here’s the premise of the promise that I will undertake, hopefully with help from one or two colleagues in my field, as well as others in the municipalities we choose:
- Start with a baseline home— say, a two-storey, single-detached 2,200-square-foot home with 30 to 40 feet of frontage;
- Determine, with a local realtor, what that home would go for in the market;
- Confirm the assessment of a home like that in that particular municipality (because the amount of your property taxes flows from this value, not the price paid for the home);
- Determine tax rates (preferably 2013 ones) for that municipality / neighbourhood (some municipalities have different tax rates depending on where you live); and,
- Quantify, on a standardized basis, a half-dozen programs/services and whether those are offered in each municipality.
With this comparison, people could see a few things. First, they’d see whether based on a comparable home, they’re paying a comparable amount of property taxes in any particular municipality. Second, they’d see what services they get for what they’re paying compared to other municipalities. Quite anecdotally, I suspect this comparison will show more similarities than people are usually willing to admit.
What’s this comparison missing? I’m open to suggestions. Leave ‘em below or fire ‘em at me via email.
Most of all, hold me to my promise.