Kingston's taxes have been going up because of a past council's unthoughtful commitment to no tax increases. One of the results of not raising taxes at the proper time to meet the needs of the city was deferred infrastructure spending. Deferring infrastructure maintenance has exasperated the problem by adding a surcharge that our current generation is forced to pay.
About 15 years ago the City wisely instituted a policy to insure that there were adequate funds available for infrastructure renewal if expansion proceeded in moderation. This policy stipulated that a 1% increase in taxes be set aside to compound and spread the burden over many years. We have about 10 more years at the current rate to reach sustainable taxation and end the 1% earmark.
However, after these many years people are feeling the pinch. We need to move more quickly to save up the needed money without increasing the earmarked tax rate by more than 1%.
To bring taxation to more sustainable levels while meeting the needs of today my solution is: investment in tax base expansion and non-tax revenue strategies to minimize the need for future tax rate raising.
1) Urban intensification: by developing underused or vacant lots along main thoroughfares we can expand the tax base - this puts a downward force on the need to raise the tax rate.
2) Encouraging people to move to Kingston: with more people in a tax jurisdiction that has intensified (rather than expanded geographically) we spread the tax burden over a larger number of people (when all other things stay the same) - this puts a second downward force on the need to raise the tax rate.
3) Improve and maximize development charges and impost fees to better reflect the true cost of development. Currently theses charges are based on an average uniform rate. Which means we are overcharging for (good and beneficial) intensive growth and undercharging for (fiscally unsustainable) extensive growth. My change would set up a price structure that makes market forces work in the direction that benefits the whole city while reducing the tax funded subsidy we all pay for development.
4) Develop and expand other non-tax revenue streams. We should look for and encourage new thinking in ways to expand services that increase city revenue. Four possible solutions: 1) offer snow removal services to Canada Post; 2) expand recycling to other communities so as to lower the per unit cost; 3) expand advertising on city buses and bus shelters; 4) put up solar panels on city buildings.