Feature

Citizens' Forum on Area Rating

Area rating of property taxes affects all of us. The Citizens' Forum is an innovative attempt to do citizen engagement on area rating in a more meaningful, productive way.

By Paul Johnson
Published September 21, 2010

At this very moment, we are in the midst of an innovative exercise in democracy in this municipality. That is the Citizens' Forum on Area Rating of Property Tax. This represents an effort by the city to do citizen engagement in a more meaningful, productive way.

The Citizens' Forum is a group of regular citizens who are volunteering their time to learn about and deliberate over this important public issue on behalf of all of us.

The group was selected from a random sample of citizens. The names of over 2100 people were generated from the tax rolls in May and surveyed for their interest in this process.

Twenty citizens who demographically reflect our community - one per ward plus five at-large who represent a cluster of wards - have been selected from the respondents to consider the issue of area rating on behalf of the community. They will be making a recommendation to the new City Council.

I have the pleasure of chairing the Steering Committee that is overseeing this process for the city. I am working alongside Tom Cooper, Matt Leighninger, Cathy McMaster and Mary Wiebe and the project team.

The Forum members are eager to hear from you and there are different ways you can participate. One public meeting took place this week, but a second one is scheduled for September 29 at Sherwood Public Library from 5:45- 8:00 pm. You can register on-line or by calling 905-546-2424 ext 3378.

These meetings are different from the typical public meeting. Formal presentations are welcomed but small group discussions will also occur as a way of ensuring everyone has a chance to contribute. You can also submit your thoughts through the Citizens' Forum website.

The project team has developed an Issue Book that you are encouraged to read before you submit your conclusions to the Forum. Copies should be available at the Municipal Service Centres and Public Libraries or downloaded from the website [PDF link].

This process will be less effective than it can be without your input. Area rating affects us all and your voice is crucial to the process.

Paul Johnson is the Chair of the Steering Committee for the Citizens' Forum on Area Rating. In his day job, he is the executive director of Wesley Urban Ministries.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:44:14

Fantastic!

I salute your initiative and look forward to hearing about how it all unfolds.

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2010 at 15:21:07

Paul, is this a similar format to the smaller forums that were held prior to your group being formed - where we broke up into small discussion groups to tackle a variety of issues? If so, I won't go again, but I will heartily recommend it to anybody who would like a taste of what really active civic engagement looks like.

Of course the usual questions remain about whether/how the feedback will be used, but that's a question for council, and not your group.

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By UpYourTaxes (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 22:20:53

Whatever you call this it amounts to raising taxes and that's a shame.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 08:57:06

UpYour, I disagree completely. Area rating decisions are about allocating taxes.

The only decisions that result in raising (or lowering) taxes are spending decisions. Every dollar the city spends must be raised; every dollar it saves need not be. If you want low taxes in Hamilton, fiddling with area rating and the associated formulae won't help one bit. This one is about who pays, not how much.

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By DeniseOC (registered) - website | Posted September 24, 2010 at 10:46:33

To answer Jason's question on Paul's behalf, the focus groups we did in June were the first phase of the project. The citizens are meeting regularly now. There is a public meeting next Wednesday at Sherwood Public Library. It will be a combination of conversations with forum members and presentations. I encourage people to register and attend. The Forum members are eager to hear from the public. To register, please go to the website www.hamilton.ca/citizensforum

The other opportunity to provide input is to download the Issue Book we developed that lays out some options and submit your thoughts on that. Again, please visit the website for more information.

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