Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Sure Sign of Election Year

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
February 15, 2010

City council approved a .9% increase this year, the lowest increase in years.

This is a political game designed to secure your vote for council incumbents in the October 25, 2010 municipal elections.

This low increase results from 2 factors---it's election year, and the outright anger of Oshawa residents about Oshawa city’s tax grab to give us the highest taxes in the GTA, if not all of Canada.

This obscene level of taxation will not change with the low tax increase for next year. You will still pay more next year than you ever have in the past.

City voters should not fall for this low one-time increase without looking at the past history of this Oshawa City Council and its mismanagement that has produced Oshawa’s excessive taxation level.

City tax levels are so high that about half of the 25 GTA municipalities will pay around 50% or less of the taxes you’d pay in Oshawa on a $350,000 house. Don’t be fooled by this one-time “election ploy” low increase!

Oshawa’s highest taxation levels in the GTA and among the highest in Canada hurt every Oshawa resident.

High taxes rob every Oshawa homeowner of tens of thousands of dollars of home equity, make Oshawa a less desirable place to buy, make it difficult for homeowners to sell their houses, and keep developers away who can increase their profit margins by selling houses at higher prices in lower taxed municipalities.

High industrial and commercial tax rates discourage relocation of businesses here limiting local job growth.

In every way, sky high taxes hurt Oshawa and its residents.

City Manager Bob Duigan has said this will be one of the lowest tax increases in Durham Region---this may be so but we will still pay significantly higher taxes than any place in Durham Region.

What city council needed to do, and which I propose as the next mayor of Oshawa, is to provide annual tax decreases until our tax rate meets the average in the GTA.

The investment rule of 72---dividing 72 by the interest rate approximates the doubling time of capital can also be used in computing halving time for financial amounts. This rule indicates that a 3% annual tax cut would half our taxes in 24 years but would quickly allow us to reach those average GTA tax levels in approximately a dozen years as other jurisdictions continue their annual tax increases.

This pace of closing the gap would be a slow enough cutback for our local government to transition to the impact of these reductions while at the same time alerting all city managers and employees to the need for cost cutting, increased productivity, less wastage, and a reduction in the costs of government. Every expenditure would be measured against “real need.”

That rule of 72 indicates that our 4% tax increases of the last few years, if consistently maintained, would have doubled our current taxes in 18 years (72/4) while the 9% tax increase supported by Mayor John Gray two years ago would have doubled our taxes in just 8 years (72/9).

Remarkable is the statement by present Mayor John Gray that Oshawa’s low increase this year will not impact as higher increases for next year.

Can we trust this of a Mayor who argued for 9% tax increases two years ago?

And what makes him think he can speak for the new council after the October 25th election?

With the rudderless leadership he has provided this dysfunctional council so far, and some of the irresponsible and faulty judgements he has made, and his many outright lies to the people, it is unlikely the angry electorate will re-elect him Mayor.

When voters are making their election choices, they have to look at the history of the Mayor’s and Council’s decisions over their terms on council and just not decisions they make in an election year.

Hopefully the memory of the voters is like that of an elephant or a dog beaten into submission---they just never forget!

Oshawa politicians like Brian Nicholson and Mayor John Gray have told voters that we enjoy the lowest taxes in Durham Region and among the lowest in the GTA.

They must think we’re dumb!

And how about their credibility with statements like this?

I think they owe the public a plausible explanation of why we’ve had consistent tax increases of 4% over the last few years when it is much lower this year.

Gross mismanagement has given Oshawa the highest taxes in Durham Region and in the GTA and the surplus charged by Oshawa, often in the thousands of dollars over other jurisdictions, and even neighbouring jurisdictions, would be enough to provide you a nice winter holiday in the sunny Caribbean climes or new appliances, or even to make a number of your car payments per year.

For example, that $350,000 Oshawa house would be taxed at $1275 less in Clarington, $1400 less in Scugog, $1300 less in Whitby, and an astounding $3200 less in Toronto.

Our tax rates are criminal!

Oshawa tax rates keep you poor and rob you of personal life-style expenditures that you have earned and you deserve!

In ratepayer meetings the Mayor attended recently, the only thing the angry voters wanted to talk about were the sky high taxes. When questioned, the Mayor suggested that high taxes resulted from some lower priced neighbourhoods and that was the reason taxes were high for those gathered.

Such Bunk!

Every city has both higher and lower priced neighbourhoods and the mayor must realize this---but once again, either he’s not very smart or he thinks we’re very dumb.

Taxes are high only because of the mill rate set by the politicians and for no other reason.

As you know, taxes result from the market value of your house as assessed by the Ontario Property Assessment Corporation, an arm of the Provincial Government, multiplied by the mill rate set by the local municipal government.

Those low priced neighbourhoods the mayor referred to would also be taxed at the highest levels in the GTA for equivalently valued homes anywhere in the GTA.

Everyone in Oshawa, no matter the value of your property, is taxed at significantly higher levels than any other part of the GTA.

In fact, compliments of the politicians on your city council, Oshawa is among the highest taxed places in all of Canada.

Isn’t it nice to be #1? After all, the city motto is, “Prepare to be amazed!”

My sister who lives in Vancouver showed me her tax bill.

Her home, assessed in 2008 at $414,500, had a 2009 tax bill of $1630. An Oshawa house of this value would pay 4 times as much---about $6500 in 2008.

It’s interesting also that her municipality had a referendum at the last election on a capital project---the enlargement of an arena.

Wouldn’t it have been democratic for the Oshawa ratepayers to be asked whether they supported the demolition and rebuilding of city hall council chambers and “A” wing---I think I know the answer!

It’s interesting also that my sister’s tax bill had a cost breakdown for various components of the tax---municipal general ($1285.82), regional library ($44.39), drainage (waste/storm water $109.49), North Delta Recreation ($29.51), Arena Enlargement (from the aforementioned referendum $25.37). This is a transparent and open tax bill, isn’t it?

Using this idea of a breakdown of costs attributable to each home for various facets of city expenditures, maybe Oshawa’s tax bill should have a separate line item for such costs as the $3M annual money losing GM Centre, the $1/4M Cullen Gardens Miniatures purchase, the $40,000 expenditure approved solely by the Mayor for the Stephen Colbert Day (Mayor’s Birthday Party), the $40,000 Mayor’s “Boy Toy” bright yellow gas guzzling Muscle Car, Councillor April Cullen’s and the Mayor’s Executive Assistant’s $40,000 tax funded MBA’s personally approved by Mayor John Gray, the $25M demolition and rebuilding of Council Chambers and City Hall “A” wing and the refurbishment of city hall Rundle Tower, the $100 tax-free weekly gas allowance for each city councillor, the costs for taxpayer funded advertising including the needless city publications distributed to all homes which always feature the mug shots and comments of all city councillors, the taxpayer cost for the $1M demolition of North Oshawa Arena and the costs to demolish all of the other targeted arenas.

I could go on and on but I think you get the idea of a truly useful transparent tax bill that we need to judge the performance of this city hall bunch and see where our tax dollars really go.

And what do you think the wish of city voters would be on a plebiscite about demolishing city hall and the civic auditorium?

Yeah! Ridiculous! Irresponsible! Wasteful!

Governments operate with a mindset of increasing budgets every year…and they have a rush to use up all unused cash at the end of every year….Lord forbid leaving any cash in the till because that would lead to a smaller allocation in subsequent years.

This is thinking that has to be changed. It leads to burgeoning fat, inefficiencies, and unnecessary expenditures and wastage all at taxpayer expense.

This is a mindset that has to be changed and will be changed under my administration.

It’s a mindset that wouldn’t be tolerated in any business where the bottom line is important…and it won’t be tolerated in my administration.

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/


  1. Hello, as a resident of oshawa property taxes are the worst thing there is in this city. the next concern is where are companies? Markham and mississauga? Why? I hope things change. I hope that taxes are going to be cut by 2000 dollars or so because they are to darn high!!!

    Please Mr Longworth, cut these taxes and bring in businesses....you will get my vote on october 25.


    Oshawa taxpayer...

  2. Thank you for your comment and your support. As you know we have the highest residential tax rate that robs home owners of tens of thousands of dollars and the highest industrial/commercial tax rates are keeping out industrial/commercial investment and jobs from Oshawa and I am calling for tax cuts to get our taxes in line with our neighbours and bring job growth to this city/