Over the past few months I have been engaging with and listening to you and your neighbours at special events and at your door. I have developed my priorities based on what is important to you. Taxes are at the forefront of any discussion, especially in Chestermere. Residents are tired of paying high taxes and want relief. There are two ways to reduce residential taxes:
Reduce spending and increase revenue from other sources. Taxes are calculated with a very simple formula; the cost of running the City (Municipal spending) minus grants and other revenue. This will be the dollar value of the taxes to be collected. Things get a little more sophisticated after that, but ultimately that is how any municipality identifies what they need to collect in tax dollars.
Reduce spending: My focus will be on cutting costs without cutting corners. We need to reduce our costs without cutting any services or amenities. My focus will be to identify waste and surplus and eliminate any expenses that are not adding to the sustainability, affordability and wellbeing of our city.
Increase revenue: One possibility is to have a higher tax rate for the new residential areas until the developer has met all the requirements agreed upon. Another would be having higher tax rates on vacant land. This would encourage the developers to follow through and find tenants. We currently have parcels of land that are just sitting there, adding nothing to our community. At the very least, we need to be asking more of the developers to ensure that our current residents are not footing the bill for any additional developments. Municipalities may soon have more avenues to charge off-site levies, which will help in the long run, but won’t have much of an impact in the next few years.
We know that the ratio of residential taxes to commercial taxes is way out of whack. We are still struggling to get our non-residential tax component to 5%. That leaves the other 95% plus, to the residents of Chestermere. There are people working very hard to get more businesses here, but it is pretty difficult to show growth when you are working with such small numbers. For example; a 20% increase of 4%, only amounts to an increase of .8% bringing it to 4.8%. We have a long way to go. Part of the answer lies with the new developments that are already approved.
Commercial rents are too high, which is one of the reasons why many of our small businesses are not thriving. Some of the new developments have made space for mixed use buildings, which will allow a small business owner to purchase or build a structure that will house both a business and a family. This means that the small business owner will no longer be at the mercy of a landlord. I believe that this strategy will be of great value to our City in that it will create places for corner stores, small hardware stores etc. I would like to see pockets of this zoning in all new developments in Chestermere.
This is one of the first things that I will focus on if I am elected on October 16th.