By Kevin Werner, News Staff
There remains some light at the end of the tunnel for homeowners when it comes to Hamilton’s residential property taxes.
The city’s residential tax competitiveness, which measures Hamilton’s tax rate against the average of 16 other Ontario municipalities, that includes Burlington, Barrie, Ottawa, Brampton, Kitchener, and St. Catharines with populations above 100,000, has improved since 2004 to the point where local residents are only paying 9 per cent above the average. That’s better than the 15 per cent above the average recorded in 2004. In 2012 the city’s tax rate was 11 per cent above the average of other municipalities.
Translated into dollars and cents, in 2004, the average taxes paid for a bungalow in Hamilton was about $3,000 compared to the average of $2,750 in other comparable municipalities. In 2013, Hamiltonians paid on average about $3,750 in property taxes for their single family dwelling, compared to the average tax rate of $3,350.
“We have made strong gains,” said Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark.
He said by keeping the city’s expenses to a minimum and capitalizing on potential revenue sources, the city is alleviating the tax burden on residential property owners.
However, Hamilton still has a few obstacles to overcome in an effort to become tax competitive. For instance, Hamilton’s average household income of $88,582 remains about 10 per cent below its fellow large municipalities, which means its property taxes as a percentage of income was 4.3 per cent, greater than the 4 per cent for comparative municipalities. But the percentage is closing, said city financial staff. In 2008 the comparative percent was 6.2 above the average for other municipalities.
Hamilton’s 2013 average property tax increase of $1,367 is almost identical to the average of other municipalities in the study. But, city financial staff stated in a report to the audit and finance committee, the city also has to deal with the lower assessment on its properties compared to other Greater Toronto Area municipalities. With a higher assessment, the city’s taxes can be spread around more evenly.
“It has a negative impact on Hamilton’s ranking,” stated city financial staff.
For apartments,Hamilton’s average tax rate per unit is about 10 per cent above other municipalities, a slight jump from the 9 per cent in 2011.
The city’s commercial and industrial taxes for 2013 remain 18 per cent below other municipalities’ tax rates. In 2011, they were about 22 per cent below the average tax rate.
Since the city began participating in this annual tax competition, which includes 98 Ontario municipalities, the city’s non-residential taxes have dropped in comparison by about 7 per cent for office buildings, one per cent for shopping centres, and there has been a 29 per cent freefall for large industrial properties. Hamilton still has a large discrepancy in its tax ratio between non-residential property taxes, which account for 17.2 per cent of revenue, compared to residential properties which generate 82 per cent of revenue.