Less than a year ago, in May of 2013, Meaford's council voted in favour of a plan to gradually equalize police service payments by residents in the municipality of Meaford over five years, however at their April 14 meeting this year, council voted in favour of implementing full equalization immediately.
Since amalgamation in 2001, property owners in the former town of Meaford have been paying 70 percent of policing costs while Sydenham and St. Vincent residents have each been responsible for roughly 15 percent of policing costs.
Based on the 2012 statistics that were provided through the OPP, for the former town of Meaford the call volume was 56 percent, for St. Vincent it was 20 percent, and for the former Sydenham it was roughly 24 percent.
Meaford CAO Denyse Morrisey told council last year, that the area rating was not fair to all Meaford property owners.
Morrissey had compared two homes of equal value ($216,000) on a border street where one side of the road is the former town of Meaford, and the other is the former Township of St. Vincent pay vastly different amounts for police services. Though the two homes are across the road from each other, the Meaford property owner is currently paying $613.74 on their property tax bill for police services, while the St. Vincent property owner across the street is paying just $118.47. An equally valued home in Sydenham is currently paying $153.06 for policing costs.
The plan approved by council last year shifted some of the burden of supporting policing costs by reducing the contribution of property owners in the former town of Meaford to 60 percent, while St. Vincent and Sydenham were each then responsible for 20 percent. The balance of the equalization will take place over the course of a five year plan announced at the May 13, 2013 council meeting.
This week, council voted 5-2 in favour of ending the police services area rating immediately. Council will give final approval for the move on April 28.
Meaford Treasurer, Darcy Chapman, told council on April 14 that staff were seeking a decision sooner rather than later as the municipality will be officially setting the 2014 tax rates in the near future.
Chapman provided council with various scenarios in his report including continuing with a phase-out process, however council decided it was best to end the area ratings this year.
Councillor Lynda Stephens told council that 2014 was a good year to end the area ratings since the tax increase for 2014 is quite modest.
“Ripping off the bandage in one year when our tax increase is as close to zero as we're going to get, is the year to do it,” offered Stephens.
Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield stood by his previous position that the changes to the area ratings for police services should be done incrementally in order to soften the blow to rural ratepayers who will see a significant increase in their property taxes with an immediate equalization.
Greenfield had only the support of Councillor Deborah Young in voting against the plan for immediate equalization of the area rating.
According to the Treasurer's report, an average home assessed at $222,450 in urban Meaford will see a reduction of $224 in their property tax bill, while property owners in Sydenham will see their tax bills increase by $90 per year, while in St. Vincent, the tax rate will increase by $125 in 2014.