To the editor:
Thunder Bay’s new rainfall tax isn’t even law yet and already city homeowners are getting hosed.
That’s because we’re paying $250,000 to consultants to make a simple decision our city council is afraid to make on its own.
The decision is this: should property owners pay a new user fee to increase the money to be spent an underfunded storm sewer system?; or should we just continue paying through our property taxes, the way it’s done now?
The answer should be simple for politicians. It’s a political question.
Instead, councillors have hired the consulting firm Aecom to convince you that, as one of Aecom’s consultants said of a user fee at Tuesday’s open house at the Italian Cultural Centre, “It’s the right thing to do”.
The argument in favour is that a fee ranging between $4 and $15 a month per home will guarantee that sewers and other stormwater management facilities get the cash they need.
Aecom says theoretically that also means your taxes will go down, but don’t count on it. The upside for councillors is that they’ll have a whole lot more tax room for stuff they like.
There is a downside. But Aecom isn’t talking much about that.
For example, how big a bureaucracy will it take to handle all the paperwork? To deal with the rebates to be built into the fee system for people who improve the ability of their properties to hold water longer before sending it to the storm sewer system, there will have to be inspectors. Then you can probably bet on an appeal process to deal with folks upset with inspectors’ decisions.
Aecom insists a user fee isn’t a done deal as a recommendation to council. There are options to be considered and the public is to be consulted. However, behind the scenes, according to Aecom’s Pippy Warburton, the company is going through the process of analyzing every property in the city to set the stage for implementing a user fee.
Did council need to spend $250,000 at this stage? No. There are plenty of examples of rainfall taxes across the country. The engineering department or corporate services department should have done the research in-house. Aecom’s work could have waited until a decision was made. But then, of course, councillors wouldn’t have consultants to do the heavy lifting of trying to convince you that a new tax on your home is a good thing.