Hamilton, Ontario

City Council:

Sep 12, 2007

Area Rating Debate

City Council, September 12, 2007 Debate on Area Rating Motion Clark: Mr Mayor I have a motion which might deal with the area rating issue. I don’t know whether we need to wave the rules for this. Eisenberger: That was an added item already in the amended agenda. Clark: Moved by myself, seconded by councillor Bob Bratina; whereas the city of Hamilton is mandated to review area rating by 2009; whereas the city of Hamilton’s tax policy on area rating has been consistent since amalgamation; therefore be it resolved that the city of Hamilton maintain the current area rating tax policy for 2008 and that the city of Hamilton begin a thorough review of the implications of eliminating area rating after the budget process; and for it to be presented to council for June 2008.  Eisenberger: Okay, that’s a change from the 2009 here. Clark: Thank you Mr Mayor Whitehead: Point of order. Myself and councillor Merulla, during the last budget process, when the area rating was referred to at Committee of the Whole, asked for the report to come back in the 2008 budget process. So this would be in conflict with that particular motion, and so the question I have is would this require two-thirds vote to support this particular motion if there’s already a motion that suggests that it come back in this budget go-round? Kevin Christenson [clerk]: Through you Mr Mayor. I don’t have the motion that the councillor’s referring to. I wouldn’t be able to give you any advice on that without having that ability to see that. We could do this as a notice of motion and it would give me a chance to take a look at it, but that’s up to the councillor. [(Clark/McHattie) That all area rating issues continue to be dealt with at Committee of the Whole for 2008. CARRIED. – COW April 4, 2007 - http://www.myhamilton.ca/NR/rdonlyres/F2D7E75F-C67E-4B3A-BD3E-CF3D816E2CB9/0/Apr04MINUTES.pdf ] Eisenberger: It’s my understanding this is an issue that I think Mr Rinaldo indicated we have to deal with every year, one way or the other, so it’s part of the budget round and we have to make decisions each and every year as we roll into the budget.  Rinaldo: Mr Mayor, you’re absolutely correct. Eisenberger: So I think that may supercede any previous motions that might have existed regarding budget issues. So I’m in the hands of the mover of the motion though, and it turns out you’re putting a motion. Clark: I think Mr Mayor that the motion actually is a compromise position whereby we can actually get to a debate about area rating and actually have a thorough review of all of the alternatives that are out there and actually have staff report back to us outside of the budget process, so we actually have it back to us by June of 2008, in time for what I believe, as I understand it, is a mandated review that we have to do anyway by 2009. So I  think it’s an appropriate resolution and I think there will be support for it. My concern is if we keep going back and forth trying to deal with it in budget time, it just going to keep going down to a defeat. Here I think we actually have some good will from everyone at the table to find out exactly what area rating is all about. Eisenberger: Okay … well again, I think it’s something we have to deal with each and every year. Peace: …I’m in the exact same position as Kevin. I’ve been approached by the councillor and indicated that I’d work with clerks to find that motion. I don’t have it on that direction, so I need to do some research. Eisenberger: I’m in your hands [tape break] [second tape] Clark: …I just want to indicate I’ve only been here a short time but area rating seems to one of the most controversial of subjects around this table. And the way Bill 25 was written, and the way amalgamation went down – and Mr Rinaldo can correct me anytime if I’m wrong – we must review this in a thorough way by 2009. That is my understanding. Rinaldo: Mr Mayor, can I clarify that if I can, just to try to help? The part that was seven years after the fact that it turns out we had to deal with was if we undertook the assets and liabilities. If we did an analysis. We did not do that. In terms of area rating, there is no time restriction in the legislation for us to continue it. The two services that we have gone, that we used Bill 25 on, is culture and recreation, and the slot revenues. And the only requirement is that once we stop using those services, you can never go back. So if council in 2008 says we’re not going to area rate slot revenues, the following year you can’t turn around and say that’s to be area rated, because it doesn’t meet the new criteria. So there is no mandated time to let council deal with it. It’s a policy of council. It’s a tax policy of council that you must deal with in each and every year. Of course if you eliminate it then you don’t deal with it. But not withstanding that, even if you eliminate it, there are permissive services that can be area rated under the new legislation. So I don’t know if, hopefully that helps you. [1:32] Clark: So let me ask another question. … Because there’s been discussion about area rating as the city is growing, that you move it to an urban-rural area rating. Can we make modifications to area rating in that perspective, or are we currently stuck with area rating as it was – rural municipalities, urban municipalities, Hamilton and the suburbs if you will? Rinaldo: Council has some discretion on changing those, providing you meet the criteria. And yes, you could turn around and say, rather than area rate on a basis of the former suburban municipalities, you could area rate on the basis of urban versus rural. You have that option. It’s your decision to make. Clark: Well we can keep debating this tonight, but from my perspective, from what I understand as I talk to my colleagues around the table, there seems to be some goodwill from everyone – well almost everyone around the table – that there’s a willingness to actually look at area rating, what other alternatives are out there, what we can and can’t do, and what the implications of area rating is for the broader community itself and for the city of Hamilton. I thought that this resolution, coming forward at this particular time, demonstrated such goodwill in that by during 2008 we would have that report and we would then have that thorough debate at that particular time. If the decision now is to go back to deal with area rating this year, I’m afraid what’s going to happen – and I guess not everyone wants to hear me – I guess what’s going to happen is we’re going to continue to go down to a tie vote, and this item is not going to be advanced. So I was under the impression that we were doing an appropriate thing, a responsible thing, in moving it forward to having a thorough review, to come back by 2008 on all services. If we continue to try to fight this in this budget, I think you’re simply going to go down to a tie vote which defeats it. So I don’t understand why there’s some push back now to have this done in this budget session, as opposed to moving it forward. I’ve said enough, thanks. Eisenberger: Okay. Thank you. I’ve put myself at the top of the speakers’ list, and I’ve got Jackson, Whitehead, Merulla and Mitchell. Councillor Mitchell, if you could take the chair for a moment. And let me just thank the mover of the motion here for pulling this together. I talked earlier this afternoon about a compromise position that got this out of the budget process, and I spoke about that yesterday. I think it’s divisive. I think it’s not going to make for a very positive experience in terms of how we move forward with the budget, but I understand the need that we have to move forward with this issue at a given point in time. So I think there’s an opportunity here for everyone accepting the notion that that’s indeed the case. We have to deal with this issue. We can’t push it away for ever and always. There’s a timeline here that I think is a positive step. I’ve asked some members of council to consider this as a positive compromise and I also indicated that I would not support dealing with area rating in this budget round. So I think we’re left with a possible compromise scenario that I think is positive for everyone. It gets everybody what they need – some time for those that need time so we can manage expectations. Information that we need to have on the table in the absence of the budget round so we can have a full discussion. Budgets are difficult enough. To intersperse area rating in the mix of all that is going to be, in my worse nightmare, a recipe for I think all of us getting at one another all over again as we did last year and I don’t think we need that at all. So it’s a good time to look at a compromise position. I think the suggested one here does exactly that. It gives everybody some time to fashion a report outside the budget, bring it back, target a timeline as to when we’re going to see with the issue in a global sense, and I think that begins in 2008. And I think even though we’re not mandated until 2009, I think it’s a good target in terms of getting something in place that hopefully will have a – addressed all the concerns that might be out  there as full as we can do it. So I’m very supportive of this and glad that folks have decided … I’m hopeful that we have a majority of council that will accept this, set the issue aside for this year, and then come forward with some good thoughtful reports and ideas in terms of how we can make areas like transit work better in urban communities, in Waterdown for instance, and then how we can also say to the rural communities, if you’re not getting it, maybe there ought to be a way for you not to have to be taxed for it. So I think all that room is inherent in the direction we’re taking and I’m hopeful that the majority of members, if not all, will support this compromise position. Thank you councillor Mitchell, and I will turn to councillor Jackson. Jackson: Thank you Mr Mayor and I think your words are very considered and thoughtful and prudent, and I’m going to support councillor Clark’s motion. I think it’s very positive that councillor Clark, representing a community in Stoney Creek, has a seconder in downtown councillor Bob Bratina. I think that’s a very positive step in this motion. Mr Mayor, I’ve been one that has consistently supported area rating in the first six and a half years of the city of Hamilton, to provide support and sensititives to the former suburban communities that, if you will, lost their legal identity at the time of amalgamation, but I’m at a point now Mr Mayor where I think that councillor Clark’s motion is very prudent. It’s timely. It’s appropriate – basically asking for all the services that are currently under area rating and others to be brought back in a full report, the pros and cons, basically whether we keep status quo, make adjustments, amendments, we overhaul it completely, we look at the rural-urban split, Mr Mayor. And frankly, that’s where my comments were going in the last 48 hours. A couple of my suburban colleagues picked up on that. That’s where my comments we’re going, Mr Mayor, because frankly, in my humble opinion, the Ancasters, the Waterdowns, Binbrook settlement, Stoney Creek, are urbanized areas, extensions, of our city of Hamilton, respecting their former identities. To me they are no longer towns, townships, rural components, but we have very large geographic rural areas still of those former areas. So there’s got to be a deliniation in the future, and that’s where my thoughts are going and my opiinion is going in terms of how we can see down the road. I think ultimately we have to look at the deliniation in the future of truly a rural area being maintained in our community, where services truly are not the same as urban areas, but looking at what where the urban areas have expanded, over this time, if you will, the last couple of decades, through regional government and through the new city of Hamilton. So Mr Mayor I’m strongly going to support this. As well, as you said, it gets us out of cherry picking during the budget processes as well that create some angst and difficulties in the past. And then I would just ask Mr Mayor to clerks, because of what Mr Rinaldo said that we’re not mandated – I’d just ask clerks to advise councillor Clark on the first line of his motion that the city of Hamilton’s mandated for review. That maybe just be worded such as shall consider a review of area rating by 2009 but the rest looks good and I’ll look to the clerk to help councillor Clark with that. Thank you Mr Mayor. Eisenberger: Thank you. Councillor Whitehead. Whitehead: I know that councillor Clark is new, in the first term. I know councillor Jackson’s not, and we had an area rating committee for two years. And we’ve obtained all the information with regards to what is area rating, the reasons for it, and implications. All that information has been gathered in goodwill. A lot of discussions took place, and decisions were made. And the decisions were to maintain the current status quo – although I think the last round we did move one item. Rinaldo: We eliminated stormwater management out of the area rating program. We did a couple of things like that. It improved it to make it fair distribution on itself. There were a number of significant changes made, but there’s still four services being area rated. Whitehead: I find it interesting that this is a fresh new idea, when in fact it’s a repackaged idea that took place three years ago. I know councillor Pearson sat on it, councillor Mitchell sat on it. We had an area rating committee. So there’s nothing fresh about this. What’s frustrating for me [10:30] as a councillor is that we always find a way to put it off for another year, another two years, and another budget process goes by without ever really resolving the issues. I heard this story before. Let’s get all the information together so we can arrive at a decision, and a decision isn’t arrived at. I think we did on one issue. We didn’t resolve all the outstanding issues. And the reality is that were the only community, in Ontario, that’s been amalgamated that still area rates culture and rec and transit in urban centres. We’re the only community in Ontario. It’s political. It’s political because of a forced marriage here. I understand the sensitivity and I’m not looking to say resolve the area rating issue today or tomorrow in the context of just eliminating it, but we have to have some phase in process that eventually leads up to one united city and one tax quantity in the context of the urban centres with a rural split. Now I’m surprised that we find ways to delay that process. We moved in a motion to bring it to Committee of the Whole because we believed that there needs to be buy-in from everybody. So in the Committee of the Whole we create the area rating and the mayor’s the leader. A year goes by. What discussion area rating do we have through the mayor to Joe on area rating? Joe? Rinaldo: There was discussion on area rating was during the last budget deliberations, this past year. Whitehead: So again a year goes by after budget processes with directions to have recommendations coming to the 2008 budget process. Nothing is done. No commitment. And so I appreciate the sincerity of councillor Clark’s motion, and I believe that his intent is to try to resolve it … and my concern is that there’s a current motion in place that says we deal with this in 2008. Now having said that I have to be practical and pragmatic and the reality is we haven’t done the work. We haven’t freshened up the numbers. We haven’t taken a look at where we stand and where we want to go, what the new … in council, so in that context I still think we need to deal with the transit issue in this 2007 budget process. The other information, I’m prepared to sit back and work with my colleagues in the context and spirit in which the motion has been put forward. But I want to make it clear that this is the last time that I’m going to be capitulating to another time delay in resolving this issue on a go forward basis. So I will be supporting councillor Clark’s motion. I wonder if I could at least – I’m going to ask Joe. We still, in the context of budget process, are  required to deal with area rating policy. Is that correct? Rinaldo: Yes, the bylaw that needs to be approved by council in terms of all tax policies. Whitehead: So it still requires us to do that, and it does mean that I’ll be making efforts to at least put things on the radar during the budget process, whether I’m successful or not remains to be seen. But again, I do appreciate the intent of councillor Clark. I’m going to give some latitude I guess and back off on my particular motion that I put forward in the last budget process, and allow this to go forward, hopefully with the intent that we’re all going to come together and find a final resolution on this matter. Eisenberger: Okay. Thank you. Can I just get clarification Joe? We deal with the bylaw in the budget process in terms of how area rating affects taxes in the various communities. What else do we deal with? Rinaldo: The tax policies also include the multi-residential tax ratio. It also includes the decision on whether or not the level of taxation of the industrial commercial were capped, because we’re over the threshholds. There’s a number of those policies that we approve every year, once you strike the budget. Eisenberger: Alright, but they are reflective of the area rating scenario that’s currently in place, are they not? Rinaldo: Yes, basically the bylaw that we would bring forward, unless directed otherwise by council, would be reflective of the current policies of council. Eisenberger: Just to be clear, what this resolution says is that we do essentially what we did last year in terms of how we deal with area rating. Rinaldo: That’s how I would interpret it unless directed otherwise. Eisenberger: Okay. I just want to be clear that that’s the path we’re heading on. Whitehead: Clarification. On the Flamborough slots, and councillor Jackson remembered this, we had a pretty extensive discussion last term. We made it clear that for a one year extension we would go with the slot revenues as an area rated item. So I guess the question is – and that was the position of the council at that time – so I guess the question now is are we saying that we’re going to live with this for another year in the context of the current arrangements? Eisenberger: Well were going to deal with this motion right now. Councillor Collins. Collins: Take me off the list. Eisenberger: Okay. Councillor Merulla. Merulla: Just to clarify what we’re doing here. We had two motions earlier – one on the impacts on transit as it pertains to area rating, and one with respect to all services that we provide and the impacts through area rating. Now we’re dealing with a motion before us that deals with the impact of area rating, except that we’re changing the date, which is delaying the inevitable. So two previous motions were defeated – one identical, except for the date, and one for one component, and now I’m hearing those who voted against the first are now supporting this one – the question I can’t wrap my mind around because politically … advantages don’t want to deal with this. But if we push it ahead, we’re moving it closer to an election – so there’s no advantage. And then I’m thinking, okay once you take the political aspect out of it, it’s just irrational. Why don’t we deal with it now, the sooner the better, and not delay the inevitable. I can’t for the life of me understand why that date is so significant, why 2008 prevails over 2007 when we’re only going to deal with it regardless. So I’m just a little confused. We defeat motions that are identical with the exception of one year that has no advantage whatsoever for the advancement of the city. Obviously I supported the original motion which was defeated because of the time issue which I don’t understand … Thank you. Eisenberger: Okay. Thank you. Councillor Mitchell. Mitchell: Thank you Mr Mayor. I’m going to support councillor Clark’s amendment and I spoke with yourself today, and there was a time in my earlier big city political career that I would have been spitting nails about now. But I’ve learned over time after three elections and being acclaimed in one of those, that when you study the issue of area rating, no staff here, no politicians anywhere in the same situations as we are would ever vote to eliminate it all. As a matter of fact this current provincial government in a provincial election this term expanded what we could area rate things for. So that means that they are also very much in support of area rating. But in saying that I too have grown to see some changes in our wards where it’s not fair to everybody. I think Lake Avenue in Stoney Creek may be one of them. So area rating is all about being fair to the services provided, and I’d like to get one more budget year a whole lot sooner, Mr Mayor, than what we did last year, and I think this resolution will do that. It will give appropriate time for the provincial election to be held and people to collect their thoughts to be brought back next year, as it says here, June 08. All the information. I’m not concerned about it in any way shape or form. I’m  reading this message here to begin a thorough review of the implications of eliminating. Well we had that before. I’m not worried about it coming back again because we may make some changes, but this is being a thorough review of the implications of eliminating. No councillor in the room should ever start to begin to assume or presume that we’re going to eliminate it. We may change it. We may correct it. We may make it fairer across the city, Mr Mayor, which I’m in support of, but nobody ever, once it’s studied and evaluated by professional people, I believe with all my heart that this council will never eliminate it all. I’ll stand to that and support this. I’m quite comfortable with that. Eisenberger: Thank you. Councillor McHattie. McHattie: Mr Mayor, I put forward my motion the other day on transit in particular. We’ve done the work at the transit steering committee. We’ve dug into this issue. We’ve identified how transit works in other muncipalities – with the urban rural split in the case of Ottawa. The Durham region as well has gone that approach where they phase in additional transit service at the same time as they’re phasing out the area rating across the urbam-rural area. It’s not rural. The rural areas  will not have transit. It doesn’t make sense for the rural areas, for example in councillor Pasuta’s area, to pay for transit. It’s not going to happen. But the urban areas are different, and other municipalities – someone said – do have this urban-rural split, and it’s pretty common in the amalgamated cities. So I’d hoped that we could move ahead on that this year. We’ve done some homework. We’re putting the service level improvements in place with a workshop. In fact, this Saturday, we’re sitting down for a whole day. I know Waterdown’s on the list and a number in Stoney Creek, and certainly Ancaster and Dundas, possibly Binbrook as well. So that information’s going to be in place. We’re ready to move. So that’s why I put my motion forward on transit in particular. So I’m a little bit disappointed in that. On the other hand, I’m encouraged by councillor Clark’s motion in that it does set a particular debate – June 2008 – and I know we don’t have the votes right now – we had that discussion earlier on tonight – to move in the direction that I’d like to move in, so we’re good for June 08. I guess I’m also supporting it because we’ve got what will be known as the Canterbury Hills Accord, so we’re going to try and get council working together as a whole city – perhaps hopefully more successful than the Meech Lake Accord or the Charletown Accord earlier. But I think that’s the side benefit of having some cohesion on council and again I’ll be supporting the motion for that reason. Thanks. Eisenberger: Thank you very much. Councillor McCarthy. McCarthy: Call the question, Mr Mayor. Eisenberger: I’ve had a request from councillor Whitehead for a second time, and he tells me they’re going to be positive, good comments, so I’m inspired. Councillor Whitehead. Whitehead: Well I think the reason – the same reason councillor McHattie spoke in the context of our local coming together in the spirit that the motion is intended. I do get emotional on these issues because I do have … which is Ancaster which is right on Scenic. I have houses on – I have new development right on Upper Horning and I need to understand because the residents in those areas are exact same level of services and they’re coming to me and saying Terry when does this stop. So that’s the pressure I’m in. I just wanted to give you some context in the pressure. In the context of that pressure I’m prepared to support the motion that councillor Clark is putting forward. Eisenberger: You may have inspired a further speakers’ list. I’m hoping you didn’t do that. Ferguson: …put forward to call the question, I thought that you would have to move that. I don’t need to listen to this degradation of Ancaster any more and this … the question. Eisenberger: Thank you very much. Councillor Clark we’ve called the question. Seconder for that would be councillor Jackson. All in favour? Any opposed? Seeing none, thank you. Sorry, that’s on calling the question. On the question itself, moved by councillor Clark and seconded by councillor Bratina, a happy marriage of former suburban and Hamilton – a point well taken, councillor Jackson, well done. All those in favour? Any opposed? Seeing none. Thank you, I think that’s the spirit of harmony we’re all looking for. I appreciate that. Thank you very much. [24:24]

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