Police costs remain area rated

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By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative

Chatham-Kent will be doing away with property tax area ratings for horticulture but will continue with that tax structure for policing and streetlights.

The proposal was by council following a staff report recommending all three changes as part of the tax system modernization project.

Chatham-Kent maintains approximately 3,000 tax rates, which account for the base levy of municipal taxes, educational support and area rated services.

“The excessive number of tax rates or carry-over rates existed pre-amalgamation. During the transitional time of amalgamation, the preference was to keep information consistent as much as possible for property owners,” explained Joey Vandermeer, project manager for tax modernization.

In the absence of area rating, similarly assessed properties would pay the same level of property taxes across the municipality. With area rating, similarly assessed properties pay different levels of property taxes depending on the level of service provided in specific communities.

“It is accepted that no tax system can be made to create a perfect one-to-one relationship between services used, and homeowners’ taxes, nor is that a realistic goal because taxes are the means by which society funds services that have a wide public benefit,” Vandermeer said.

Police Chief Gary Conn said the level of police service does not change whether or not a resident lives within a rural area.

“The level of service is dependent upon a totality of variables which are taken into consideration. Primarily, those are the nature of the call, and the urgency of that call,” he said. “No matter where you are in Chatham-Kent, if you call 911, a trained full-time professional officer will attend.”

However, Chatham Coun. Amy Finn noted that police cruisers were far more likely to be seen in urban areas, a statement echoed by other councillors.

“In an urban setting, your chances of seeing a police car is 20 times greater than seeing one out in the rural areas. Patrolling the streets is also a service; it’s a deterrent,” Finn said.

A flat rate would have increased the annual tax rate to $102.65 per $100,000 assessment in 16 rural areas. Chatham, Wallaceburg, Ridgetown, Blenheim, Dresden and Tilbury taxpayers would have saved $75.84 annually.

Urban residents will save $3 per $100,000 assessment with a flat rate horticulture tax, and rural residents will incur the cost.  Horticultural beautification initiatives include hanging baskets, and annual planting.

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