Sunday, September 25, 2016

Growth pays for growth

New Buzz words brought to you by Mr. "More of the same" Bowman who seems to have found his silver bullet... another fee.

Claiming that new developments are an unnecessary burden to the City, the Mayor hired some consulting firm to compare various fee structures and advise on how Winnipeg might get on the band wagon.

It all sounds great.  http://winnipeg.ca/finance/pdfs/growth/HEMSON-ReviewOfMunicipalGrowthFinancingMechanisms.pdf

Then you start wondering... (or maybe you don't, because you drank the Mayor's Kool-Aid)

In places like Hamilton, where they pay $35,500 (+/-), how do they compare with all the other fees and charges? I don't see the Hemson report comparing the total burden in taxes and fees to other places, JUST these "growth fees".

I'd like to know where Winnipeg falls when we compare all the zoning, permits, property taxes and waste diversion fees (and whatever other fee we get stuck with) and compare THAT number to other places. To simply trot out the comparison to one fee that is (or isn't) levied is not really a comparison at all.

This kind of thing goes well beyond what I have time to compile, but other previous studies have done it. Consider this one by CMHC in 2002 where Winnipeg (as well as the Provincial and Federal Governments) were already adding 11.6% to the price of the average home through the various fees it charged. What are we at today? Has that gone up? Down? Why are we not even discussing it? Is it embarrassing, and would it cause the Mayor and his idea to have to find a better line to spout than "growth should have to pay for growth"?
https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/odpub/pdf/63184.pdf?lang=en

Now we want to add another $10 K or so, depending on how large the home is, but we haven't really ever been told how this will be divvied up. Where is this all going?

A report that looked into various fees levied by other cities indicates that growth fees can be used as development tools... guiding the fees to encourage compliance with the planning that has already been done to yield the sort of City structure we want to see.
http://www.munkschool.utoronto.ca/imfg/uploads/201/imfg_no.9_online_june25.pdf
While I don't agree with a number of the conclusions in the study, the notions regarding how to apply the fee structure and why appear to have much larger value as a planning tool than as a revenue tool. Bowman hasn't even gone there... all he's talked about is the money.

The Hemson report states that "In recent years, the City of Winnipeg has experienced increasing rates of growth." Umm... is less than 1% a year REALLY growth? It's stagnant... Edmonton is at 7%, Regina is at 2.5%... who are you kidding! More recent growth has increased, but still slowly compared to other cities. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/150211/dq150211a-eng.htm shows us at 1.6% and I question the accuracy of any chart that shows Winnipeg growing faster than Toronto...

Basically, the long list of Hemson reports are new and creative ways to tax people. Hey... just tax us, after all, we're Canadians. We take it on the chin, whine and complain, and do little or nothing about it.

This is just another report that doesn't look at what our current burden is, it doesn't consider what the current costs associated with "growth" are, and it doesn't make any attempt whatsoever to curtail the biggest issue Winnipeg faces...


A SPENDING PROBLEM.  It's time to go to a meeting.

Hi. My names Brian, and I'm the head of a City with an outrageous personnel expense, poor productivity, and golden pension plans. My City's major expense is paying for employees. Not roads, not bridges, not sewer and water... and increasingly, these employees are bringing in projects so over budget, people are laughing at us when we make any sort of projection. I'm unsure what to do, so I'm going to do the easy thing. I'm going to charge the people more.

Admitting it is the first step.

If you want a new growth fee. Tell us how we rank compared to all the other major cities with all the applicable fees born not only during development, but the life of the structure being taxed.

Short of that, your Hemson report means nothing.

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