Mayor Eisenberger wants public input on area-rating debate

News Oct 15, 2009 Ancaster News

In an attempt to prevent a potentially explosive issue that could destroy this council’s term, Mayor Fred Eisenberger is proposing to delay a decision on the future of arearating until after 2010. Mr. Eisenberger confirmed he will introduce a recommendation to begin a public consultation process to debate the future merits of area-rating.

“I’m working on a process that would allow a greater degree of discourse that will be critically important,” he said in an interview. “I think it needs input, a greater degree of understanding.”

Mr. Eisenberger did not reveal the entire public process he is contemplating, but said it involves more than just holding public information sessions.

“It’s beyond public meetings,” he said. “I’m not ready to put the whole thing on the table. (But) it will be a fair, pro-active inclusive citizen engagement process.”

He expects the public process not to be finished until after the 2010 municipal election. Any new area-rating policy won’t be implemented until early in council’s next term, he said.

Hamilton politicians were getting ready to re-open the emotional hot-button issue in an attempt to restructure it, or at the insistence of some urban councillors, eliminate the tax policy altogether.

Mr. Eisenberger said he wants to avoid the discussion entirely because it will “kill the momentum” Hamilton has been generating recently.

Glanbrook Councillor Dave Mitchell said re-opening the controversial topic of arearating is the “biggest, hottest, major decision for this city going. It could drive a knife into any successes we’ve had.”

Last month some councillors confirmed city staff were recommending in a report a number of options for area-rating, including eliminating recreation and culture from the area-rating policy. The meeting was cancelled and the issue put off until October. City financial staff in 2008 had proposed a number of suggestions to reform area-rating, including having the former suburban areas pay for the services they receive on an urban/rural split, and systematically removing the services from the area-rating system. Eliminating all the services from area-rating could mean tax hikes of between 10 and 12 per cent for suburban residents. Under the Municipal Act once a service has been removed from being area-rated, it can’t return.

Mr. Eisenberger said he expects staff’s area-rating report will be presented to councillors either in late October or early November. He expects his motion will accompany the report.

When amalgamation occurred in 2001, area-rating was adopted to exempt suburban homeowners from paying taxes for services they don’t receive. It softened somewhat the blow of higher taxes that were expected from amalgamation. The services that were area-rated included storm sewers, seniors’ tax credit, Flamboro slot revenues, fire services, recreation and culture, and transit. Over the following eight years councillors have systematically removed the services from the system until only recreation and culture, transit and fire are now area-rated.

Suburban councillors remain adamant that area-rating remain.

“There is an inequity here,” said Mr. Mitchell.

If area-rating is eliminated, “people in Binbrook will pay for services they don’t receive.”

Mr. Eisenberger, who during his 2006 mayoral campaign, promised to keep arearating, now says the system needs to be transformed because of Hamilton’s changing demographics. Mr. Eisenberger has become more accepting of possibly establishing an urban/rural tax policy for the city along the lines of what Ottawa has installed.

“I’m not on for throwing it out,” he said. “But we need to look at what has changed over the last year and how the urban and rural (areas) have been altered. There is a sense an urban and rural split on area-rating makes some sense.”

Mayor Eisenberger wants public input on area-rating debate

News Oct 15, 2009 Ancaster News

In an attempt to prevent a potentially explosive issue that could destroy this council’s term, Mayor Fred Eisenberger is proposing to delay a decision on the future of arearating until after 2010. Mr. Eisenberger confirmed he will introduce a recommendation to begin a public consultation process to debate the future merits of area-rating.

“I’m working on a process that would allow a greater degree of discourse that will be critically important,” he said in an interview. “I think it needs input, a greater degree of understanding.”

Mr. Eisenberger did not reveal the entire public process he is contemplating, but said it involves more than just holding public information sessions.

“It’s beyond public meetings,” he said. “I’m not ready to put the whole thing on the table. (But) it will be a fair, pro-active inclusive citizen engagement process.”

He expects the public process not to be finished until after the 2010 municipal election. Any new area-rating policy won’t be implemented until early in council’s next term, he said.

Hamilton politicians were getting ready to re-open the emotional hot-button issue in an attempt to restructure it, or at the insistence of some urban councillors, eliminate the tax policy altogether.

Mr. Eisenberger said he wants to avoid the discussion entirely because it will “kill the momentum” Hamilton has been generating recently.

Glanbrook Councillor Dave Mitchell said re-opening the controversial topic of arearating is the “biggest, hottest, major decision for this city going. It could drive a knife into any successes we’ve had.”

Last month some councillors confirmed city staff were recommending in a report a number of options for area-rating, including eliminating recreation and culture from the area-rating policy. The meeting was cancelled and the issue put off until October. City financial staff in 2008 had proposed a number of suggestions to reform area-rating, including having the former suburban areas pay for the services they receive on an urban/rural split, and systematically removing the services from the area-rating system. Eliminating all the services from area-rating could mean tax hikes of between 10 and 12 per cent for suburban residents. Under the Municipal Act once a service has been removed from being area-rated, it can’t return.

Mr. Eisenberger said he expects staff’s area-rating report will be presented to councillors either in late October or early November. He expects his motion will accompany the report.

When amalgamation occurred in 2001, area-rating was adopted to exempt suburban homeowners from paying taxes for services they don’t receive. It softened somewhat the blow of higher taxes that were expected from amalgamation. The services that were area-rated included storm sewers, seniors’ tax credit, Flamboro slot revenues, fire services, recreation and culture, and transit. Over the following eight years councillors have systematically removed the services from the system until only recreation and culture, transit and fire are now area-rated.

Suburban councillors remain adamant that area-rating remain.

“There is an inequity here,” said Mr. Mitchell.

If area-rating is eliminated, “people in Binbrook will pay for services they don’t receive.”

Mr. Eisenberger, who during his 2006 mayoral campaign, promised to keep arearating, now says the system needs to be transformed because of Hamilton’s changing demographics. Mr. Eisenberger has become more accepting of possibly establishing an urban/rural tax policy for the city along the lines of what Ottawa has installed.

“I’m not on for throwing it out,” he said. “But we need to look at what has changed over the last year and how the urban and rural (areas) have been altered. There is a sense an urban and rural split on area-rating makes some sense.”

Mayor Eisenberger wants public input on area-rating debate

News Oct 15, 2009 Ancaster News

In an attempt to prevent a potentially explosive issue that could destroy this council’s term, Mayor Fred Eisenberger is proposing to delay a decision on the future of arearating until after 2010. Mr. Eisenberger confirmed he will introduce a recommendation to begin a public consultation process to debate the future merits of area-rating.

“I’m working on a process that would allow a greater degree of discourse that will be critically important,” he said in an interview. “I think it needs input, a greater degree of understanding.”

Mr. Eisenberger did not reveal the entire public process he is contemplating, but said it involves more than just holding public information sessions.

“It’s beyond public meetings,” he said. “I’m not ready to put the whole thing on the table. (But) it will be a fair, pro-active inclusive citizen engagement process.”

He expects the public process not to be finished until after the 2010 municipal election. Any new area-rating policy won’t be implemented until early in council’s next term, he said.

Hamilton politicians were getting ready to re-open the emotional hot-button issue in an attempt to restructure it, or at the insistence of some urban councillors, eliminate the tax policy altogether.

Mr. Eisenberger said he wants to avoid the discussion entirely because it will “kill the momentum” Hamilton has been generating recently.

Glanbrook Councillor Dave Mitchell said re-opening the controversial topic of arearating is the “biggest, hottest, major decision for this city going. It could drive a knife into any successes we’ve had.”

Last month some councillors confirmed city staff were recommending in a report a number of options for area-rating, including eliminating recreation and culture from the area-rating policy. The meeting was cancelled and the issue put off until October. City financial staff in 2008 had proposed a number of suggestions to reform area-rating, including having the former suburban areas pay for the services they receive on an urban/rural split, and systematically removing the services from the area-rating system. Eliminating all the services from area-rating could mean tax hikes of between 10 and 12 per cent for suburban residents. Under the Municipal Act once a service has been removed from being area-rated, it can’t return.

Mr. Eisenberger said he expects staff’s area-rating report will be presented to councillors either in late October or early November. He expects his motion will accompany the report.

When amalgamation occurred in 2001, area-rating was adopted to exempt suburban homeowners from paying taxes for services they don’t receive. It softened somewhat the blow of higher taxes that were expected from amalgamation. The services that were area-rated included storm sewers, seniors’ tax credit, Flamboro slot revenues, fire services, recreation and culture, and transit. Over the following eight years councillors have systematically removed the services from the system until only recreation and culture, transit and fire are now area-rated.

Suburban councillors remain adamant that area-rating remain.

“There is an inequity here,” said Mr. Mitchell.

If area-rating is eliminated, “people in Binbrook will pay for services they don’t receive.”

Mr. Eisenberger, who during his 2006 mayoral campaign, promised to keep arearating, now says the system needs to be transformed because of Hamilton’s changing demographics. Mr. Eisenberger has become more accepting of possibly establishing an urban/rural tax policy for the city along the lines of what Ottawa has installed.

“I’m not on for throwing it out,” he said. “But we need to look at what has changed over the last year and how the urban and rural (areas) have been altered. There is a sense an urban and rural split on area-rating makes some sense.”