Tax talks bring amalgamation woes back to the fore

Differing tax rates for the outlying areas of Greater Sudbury is becoming a burning issue among those concerned with how community services are meted out across the city.

Councillors debate one tax rate for the whole city

Differing tax rates for the outlying areas of Greater Sudbury is becoming a burning issue among those concerned with how community services are meted out across the city.

However, bringing up the matter of old boundary lines that still determine where fire and other community services are allowed to go could resurrect some of the hard feelings that still exist around they city's amalgamation. 

The outlying areas are served by volunteer fire brigades and, because of that, residents pay about $100 less in property taxes than in Sudbury proper. But firefighter association president Rob Hyndman said that means full-time firefighters aren't supposed to go to calls outside of the city core.

"There's been some definite confusion, post-amalgamation, about whether or not we will go," he said.

Hyndman said he would like to see one tax rate for the whole city.

But some residents — especially in the former Valley East, where anti-amalgamation sentiment has been the loudest — don't want to see taxes go up and services stay the same.

'Fair for everyone'

Hanmer councillor Andre Rivest said one solution is to have all tax dollars from a specific neighbourhood spent on parks and sidewalks in that neighbourhood.

But sprawling new subdivisions in the Valley and elsewhere mean there is a need for more transit and fire services in those areas — something for which the city can't afford to pay. City councillor Terry Kett said the tax rates need to be adjusted sooner rather than later.

"What really has to happen is, I think, the people in the outlying areas need to really be convinced that they need to modify the area rating that they have, or in the future, maybe even eliminate it," Kett said.

But for councillors like Rivest, who would like to see area rating expanded so that tax rates are directly tied to what city services residents receive, including playgrounds, sidewalk plowing and street lighting, a one-size-fits-all tax rating doesn’t make sense.

Tailoring tax rates to specific services might actually make the amalgamated city stronger, instead of dividing Greater Sudbury, Rivest said.

"If you do get an increase you know those dollars are going to stay right in your community, they won't go elsewhere," he said. "So, that is fair for everyone."