I agree with Ben Burd – the Storm Water Management "fee" (SWM) approved by our last Council was poorly planned, poorly communicated to Cobourg's residents and is generally deceitful. The SWM tax grab is not a one-time charge since it is planned to continue and even increase every year until at least 2032.
When Council talks about property taxes (the levy) people have an expectation that the amounts being discussed are the TOTAL amount that a property owner must pay based on the size and character of their property. SWM fees are solely determined by the size and character of a property; why are they ignored in talk about tax increases?
Now that this deceitful fee has been approved what should be done? We must get spending under control. Many taxpayers are pressed to pay for necessities. They cannot afford the 11% property tax increase discussed by Mr. Burd. Where are savings possible? Council should be looking at the big-ticket items and exploring ways to reduce their costs.
Consider our bus system. It is generally accepted that there are about 300 frequent bus users. When all costs – bus drivers, fuel, bus repairs and periodic replacement of aging buses – are included the bus service costs over $1.6M each year. That means that each bus user costs taxpayers almost $450 per month or $5,400 per year. One can lease a late model car plus pay for insurance and gasoline to get to work or shopping for less than $450 per month. Shake your head!
As the Storm Water Management tax is currently implemented a property owner cannot reduce the fee by becoming part of the solution. The SWM fee is fixed based solely on lot size. Things like a reduction for rain barrels, a reduction for more trees, a reduction for improved grading, a reduction for water gardens, a reduction for water gardens and reductions for many other resident actions would help to solve the problem of storm water management while reducing the tax burden on those who help.
Next steps? Do as Ben Burd suggested: contact our Councillors and Mayor and explain that a hidden $1.6M tax increase – the largest in Cobourg's history – is deceitful. Democracy cannot function if our politicians mislead the public. Demand fiscal responsibility! Insist on savings in other areas!