Mayor-elect Eisenberger says tax increases a ‘last resort’

News Nov 03, 2014 Hamilton Mountain News

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 If Hamilton is to continue profiting from the economic uplift it has been experiencing over the last few years, City Manager Chris Murray says the city needs to “put its money where its mouth is.

“The next term of council is absolutely critical,” said Murray, talking to a room filled with business and political leaders at the Waterfront Centre last week during an event sponsored by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. “We need to put our energies into smart growth; we need to create jobs; we need to invest our resources wisely. We can’t save our way to prosperity.”

That will mean, said Murray, the possibility of raising revenues, through tax hikes and fare increases, which will test the resolve of politicians.

“The financial situation of the city is going to be important to talk about the practical realities of trying to sustain extremely low tax rate increases,” saidMurray. “Everything is fixable. It just comes with consequences.”

But Mayor-elect Fred Eisenberger said tax increases should be the last thing on the minds of councillors.

“It ought to be a last resort,” said Eisenberger, who listened toMurray’s presentation. “We need to dip into all the opportunities to find other revenues and efficiencies.”

Despite the economic good news forHamiltonover the last four years, the city has some significant challenges that could derail its future, said Murray. While the Conference Board of Canada has recognized Hamilton’s improvements over the years, and the Pan Am Games will provide the city with an economic bump next year, the city still has nearly a $2 billion infrastructure deficit confronting it over the next decade. In addition, its tax ratio – where residents make up 87 per cent of the city’s revenues compared to 13 per cent for industry, and commercial properties – remains unsustainable.

“That is a challenge,” said Murray.

To put it into perspective, he said, to boost the industrial ratio from 13 per cent to 14 per cent would take three Arcelor Mittals or 5 Canada Breads to locate in the city.

“We don’t have many tricks in the bag,” saidMurray. “We will have to sit down with council (and talk about) tax rates and fees. I don’t know how you do that and not be able to address all the needs of the community.”

Over the last four years Hamilton council approved average tax increases of about 1.4 per cent, one of the lowest tax increases in the province.

Eisenberger said he wants the federal and provincial governments to start providing money to Hamilton. In addition, city staff needs to look at streamlining their departments and finding efficiencies and using any savings to pay for programs, he said.

“Where we find those revenues will be a challenge,” said Eisenberger. “I hope and expect the federal and provincial governments will start looking at some of the revenue they capture that can go to municipalities as consistent funding.”

Still, Eisenberger said Murray’s focus on creating jobs and promoting economic development fit in nicely with his recently successful campaign discussion of prosperity for all Hamiltonians.

“I think we are pretty much talking the same language,” said Eisenberger. “My key issue for Hamilton was prosperity, economic development and jobs and the key issue for the city are prosperity and economic development and jobs. We are aligned in that sense. There is no magic wand for an immediate solution.”

Murray also talked about how the province must make a decision about transit for Hamilton. Councillors had unanimously voted for light-rail transit last year and had submitted its preferred option to the province. But since the vote, some councillors have had second thoughts, as they have talked about supporting LRT but only if the province provided 100 per cent capital funding.

Murray said the province has also dropped the ball by not properly providing an answer to the city about the funding model.

“Can we be any more clear? There was a promise of 100 per cent funding. What are they prepared to do to help build transit in this community?” saidMurray. “If anyone in this room believes we will continue (with transit) where we are is wrong. There has to be investment in transit. We have not seen fare increases in transit. It’s not the system we need. We need a different system.”

Eisenberger remains committed to creating a citizens’ forum that will examine the economic benefits of LRT and bus rapid transit systems. He expects the exercise to take about seven months to complete.

“We need a process in Hamilton to have a community solution that is made in Hamilton,” said Eisenberger. “We will define that process and work through that. I think we will get a clear answer from the province.”

Mayor-elect Eisenberger says tax increases a ‘last resort’

News Nov 03, 2014 Hamilton Mountain News

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 If Hamilton is to continue profiting from the economic uplift it has been experiencing over the last few years, City Manager Chris Murray says the city needs to “put its money where its mouth is.

“The next term of council is absolutely critical,” said Murray, talking to a room filled with business and political leaders at the Waterfront Centre last week during an event sponsored by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. “We need to put our energies into smart growth; we need to create jobs; we need to invest our resources wisely. We can’t save our way to prosperity.”

That will mean, said Murray, the possibility of raising revenues, through tax hikes and fare increases, which will test the resolve of politicians.

“The financial situation of the city is going to be important to talk about the practical realities of trying to sustain extremely low tax rate increases,” saidMurray. “Everything is fixable. It just comes with consequences.”

But Mayor-elect Fred Eisenberger said tax increases should be the last thing on the minds of councillors.

“It ought to be a last resort,” said Eisenberger, who listened toMurray’s presentation. “We need to dip into all the opportunities to find other revenues and efficiencies.”

Despite the economic good news forHamiltonover the last four years, the city has some significant challenges that could derail its future, said Murray. While the Conference Board of Canada has recognized Hamilton’s improvements over the years, and the Pan Am Games will provide the city with an economic bump next year, the city still has nearly a $2 billion infrastructure deficit confronting it over the next decade. In addition, its tax ratio – where residents make up 87 per cent of the city’s revenues compared to 13 per cent for industry, and commercial properties – remains unsustainable.

“That is a challenge,” said Murray.

To put it into perspective, he said, to boost the industrial ratio from 13 per cent to 14 per cent would take three Arcelor Mittals or 5 Canada Breads to locate in the city.

“We don’t have many tricks in the bag,” saidMurray. “We will have to sit down with council (and talk about) tax rates and fees. I don’t know how you do that and not be able to address all the needs of the community.”

Over the last four years Hamilton council approved average tax increases of about 1.4 per cent, one of the lowest tax increases in the province.

Eisenberger said he wants the federal and provincial governments to start providing money to Hamilton. In addition, city staff needs to look at streamlining their departments and finding efficiencies and using any savings to pay for programs, he said.

“Where we find those revenues will be a challenge,” said Eisenberger. “I hope and expect the federal and provincial governments will start looking at some of the revenue they capture that can go to municipalities as consistent funding.”

Still, Eisenberger said Murray’s focus on creating jobs and promoting economic development fit in nicely with his recently successful campaign discussion of prosperity for all Hamiltonians.

“I think we are pretty much talking the same language,” said Eisenberger. “My key issue for Hamilton was prosperity, economic development and jobs and the key issue for the city are prosperity and economic development and jobs. We are aligned in that sense. There is no magic wand for an immediate solution.”

Murray also talked about how the province must make a decision about transit for Hamilton. Councillors had unanimously voted for light-rail transit last year and had submitted its preferred option to the province. But since the vote, some councillors have had second thoughts, as they have talked about supporting LRT but only if the province provided 100 per cent capital funding.

Murray said the province has also dropped the ball by not properly providing an answer to the city about the funding model.

“Can we be any more clear? There was a promise of 100 per cent funding. What are they prepared to do to help build transit in this community?” saidMurray. “If anyone in this room believes we will continue (with transit) where we are is wrong. There has to be investment in transit. We have not seen fare increases in transit. It’s not the system we need. We need a different system.”

Eisenberger remains committed to creating a citizens’ forum that will examine the economic benefits of LRT and bus rapid transit systems. He expects the exercise to take about seven months to complete.

“We need a process in Hamilton to have a community solution that is made in Hamilton,” said Eisenberger. “We will define that process and work through that. I think we will get a clear answer from the province.”

Mayor-elect Eisenberger says tax increases a ‘last resort’

News Nov 03, 2014 Hamilton Mountain News

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 If Hamilton is to continue profiting from the economic uplift it has been experiencing over the last few years, City Manager Chris Murray says the city needs to “put its money where its mouth is.

“The next term of council is absolutely critical,” said Murray, talking to a room filled with business and political leaders at the Waterfront Centre last week during an event sponsored by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. “We need to put our energies into smart growth; we need to create jobs; we need to invest our resources wisely. We can’t save our way to prosperity.”

That will mean, said Murray, the possibility of raising revenues, through tax hikes and fare increases, which will test the resolve of politicians.

“The financial situation of the city is going to be important to talk about the practical realities of trying to sustain extremely low tax rate increases,” saidMurray. “Everything is fixable. It just comes with consequences.”

But Mayor-elect Fred Eisenberger said tax increases should be the last thing on the minds of councillors.

“It ought to be a last resort,” said Eisenberger, who listened toMurray’s presentation. “We need to dip into all the opportunities to find other revenues and efficiencies.”

Despite the economic good news forHamiltonover the last four years, the city has some significant challenges that could derail its future, said Murray. While the Conference Board of Canada has recognized Hamilton’s improvements over the years, and the Pan Am Games will provide the city with an economic bump next year, the city still has nearly a $2 billion infrastructure deficit confronting it over the next decade. In addition, its tax ratio – where residents make up 87 per cent of the city’s revenues compared to 13 per cent for industry, and commercial properties – remains unsustainable.

“That is a challenge,” said Murray.

To put it into perspective, he said, to boost the industrial ratio from 13 per cent to 14 per cent would take three Arcelor Mittals or 5 Canada Breads to locate in the city.

“We don’t have many tricks in the bag,” saidMurray. “We will have to sit down with council (and talk about) tax rates and fees. I don’t know how you do that and not be able to address all the needs of the community.”

Over the last four years Hamilton council approved average tax increases of about 1.4 per cent, one of the lowest tax increases in the province.

Eisenberger said he wants the federal and provincial governments to start providing money to Hamilton. In addition, city staff needs to look at streamlining their departments and finding efficiencies and using any savings to pay for programs, he said.

“Where we find those revenues will be a challenge,” said Eisenberger. “I hope and expect the federal and provincial governments will start looking at some of the revenue they capture that can go to municipalities as consistent funding.”

Still, Eisenberger said Murray’s focus on creating jobs and promoting economic development fit in nicely with his recently successful campaign discussion of prosperity for all Hamiltonians.

“I think we are pretty much talking the same language,” said Eisenberger. “My key issue for Hamilton was prosperity, economic development and jobs and the key issue for the city are prosperity and economic development and jobs. We are aligned in that sense. There is no magic wand for an immediate solution.”

Murray also talked about how the province must make a decision about transit for Hamilton. Councillors had unanimously voted for light-rail transit last year and had submitted its preferred option to the province. But since the vote, some councillors have had second thoughts, as they have talked about supporting LRT but only if the province provided 100 per cent capital funding.

Murray said the province has also dropped the ball by not properly providing an answer to the city about the funding model.

“Can we be any more clear? There was a promise of 100 per cent funding. What are they prepared to do to help build transit in this community?” saidMurray. “If anyone in this room believes we will continue (with transit) where we are is wrong. There has to be investment in transit. We have not seen fare increases in transit. It’s not the system we need. We need a different system.”

Eisenberger remains committed to creating a citizens’ forum that will examine the economic benefits of LRT and bus rapid transit systems. He expects the exercise to take about seven months to complete.

“We need a process in Hamilton to have a community solution that is made in Hamilton,” said Eisenberger. “We will define that process and work through that. I think we will get a clear answer from the province.”