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A neat thing about the system as well is another 'feature' of the revenue neutral system. As the city grows the total assessed value of the city goes up due to absolute growth in the capital stock not just appreciation of existing stock. So during years of gangbuster growth a tax hike needs to be above 'growth' before there will be a real tax hike passed onto rate payers at large.

"There's a disadvantage to the Calgary system"

Yeah. Calgary has terrible services. I lived there briefly. They don't even have recycling pick-up. Barbarians.

In fairness, politicians only control the mill rate not (directly, at least) the size of the property tax base, so it's not unreasonable for them to say that they're "freezing" property taxes when they freeze the mill rate, even though the amount of taxes collected will go up as the base expands (or not, if the base contracts).

Put it in another context, no one would accuse a government of increasing personal or corporate income tax just because the size of the tax base (personal or corporate income) increases. So what's the distinction between the two? My own theory is that people made a distinction between tax increases resulting from increases in income/consumption, which is readily tangible and therefore not seen as a tax increase, and tax increases resulting from increases in the value of property (i.e., wealth), which is not as tangible and is seen as a tax increase.


Bob, interesting points, and I think you're right on the psychology - both my income taxes and my property taxes have increased over the past 15 years, but I only complain about the increase in property taxes, because I have to pay the later out of pocket.

But I think that changes in housing values and changes in income have different impacts on people's well-being, and it may be appropriate for the tax system to recognize this.

Housing prices are strongly inversely related to interest rates. Suppose interest rates increase by 5 percentage points and housing prices decrease enough so that, on average, mortgage payments are unchanged. The "value" of property has fallen, but the average cost of housing hasn't changed.

If the cost of housing hasn't changed, then why should the tax that one pays on housing change?

Patrick: I don't think "I lived there briefly" constitutes empirical evidence. I've lived here a long time - some services are the best of any city I've lived in (e.g., the pools, the libraries, the city-wide bike path which is cleared of snow all winter), others are not (snow removal on city streets). I don't think you can meaningfully assess the tax with that evidence, or with the generalized assertions that us Nenshi voters (not Ford voters) are "barbarians". I will add as an aside that this comment is not reflecting the heat that generates it - I find nothing more tiresome than comments like that directed at this city (or at Toronto - where I lived for five years too). Writing as a single name on a blog is no excuse for being so rude and unthoughtful.

In a budget based property tax system, which is the most common in the US, politicians set the budget, the assessor values the land and the mill rate is computed as (budget - other revenue)/total assessed RE value.

In many states like Colorado, Massachusetts and, now New Jersey, there is some percentage limit on the percentage per year the politicians can raise the levy.

OGT, "there is some percentage limit on the percentage per year the politicians can raise the levy." Would the restriction be on the mill rate or on the average tax bill or on individual tax bills?

Alice, sorry I upset you. My intent didn't come across at all. I live in Edmonton and was born in Montreal. Perhaps that explains it?

The Alberta system doesn't actually help understanding. At one point, Edmonton's city council implemented a "tax freeze" for several years, meaning city tax revenues did not increase during that period, and lost ground to inflation. This was bad, obviously, and Edmonton crumbled through the '80s and '90s until we got a coucil with vision and fortitude.

The problem with our system is that every year councils must raise taxes. Most people don't understand what this means, because they think of it like sales taxes and income taxes, where there are automatic adjustment mechanisms and and rise or fall is therefore an actual policy change. In general, people therefore think this constant rise is a sign of waste and mismanagement. Every election "tax increases" are the thing that every challenger talks about. It's very frustrating, since it would be nice to talk about actual policy for a change.

I've been wondering: is Toronto a dictatorship? I've been hearing a lot about what Rob Ford wants to do, but nothing about city council. The way it looks in the media, it sounds like Ford makes a pronouncement and it is so, by imperial decree. In Alberta, the mayor is just one more voice on council. They have some additional executive authority, but on policy decisions they're no more powerful than the rest.

Neil: " is Toronto a dictatorship? ... Rob Ford ... "

I noticed something similar here in Edmonton during the last municipal elections. It was pretty clear that many of the mayoral candidates didn't realize that the mayor is only one vote on council. They talked as if they were running for King.

In someways this worked against Mandel (the incumbent, who won anyway) since he would answer questions and propose policy in terms of being one vote among many. The other candidates sounded much more decisive, even though they had no way of accomplishing what they proposed.

Alice, BTW I think the Flames suck too - evidence notwithstanding. I hope you won't hold it against me.

;-)

Ah Patrick, intra-Alberta prejudice I can deal with. And I'm a Canucks fan so you can hate the Flames all you like. Besides, they do suck.

I think Neil's point on this is dead on; a significant portion of the election in Calgary was also on tax increases, which are treated as a change in policy, and Barb Higgins, e.g., promised she would not raise taxes. Given the revenue neutral system I'm not sure how in good conscience she could do that - and your comments indicate exactly what would happen were a politician here so foolish as to follow through with such a promise.

If it is the same in Edmonton though, that leads me to wonder whether this is a matter of municipal policy or a requirement under the Municipal Governments Act - although a brief skim didn't indicate it, and I wasn't prepared to read all 600+ provisions to see if I could find it.

To answer the question raised by the post: Toronto is like Calgary. In Toronto parlance, a "freeze" means "no change in revenue from residential property taxation". The mill rate is an adjustment variable that never gets talked about (or only when our previous mayor was trying to argue that taxes were lower in Toronto).

Frances -- the system in Toronto is the same system for all of Ontario. As in your city of Ottawa, a property tax "freeze" is a freeze on the amount of revenue the city will take in.

The onus of paying that revenue is apportioned between property owners based on the value of their property, as determined by the province. The change in the amount of property taxes an Ontarian pays is primarily determined by the difference between the change in value of her property and the average change in property value for her municipal jurisdiction.

The "mill rate" is irrelevent.

Don't you own a home in Ontario?

One added quirk in Toronto is that the province has mandated that business tax rates for Toronto (and only Toronto) must increase slower than residential tax rates. I think the ratio is two-thirds -- you can google it.

Francis- It's a limit on the total levy capacity, in Mass it goes up 2.5 per year plus new construction growth. It would be better if the levy increase was tied to the PPI or something, but apparently the framers of the referendum feared voters might suffer from money illusion.

The politician's only vote on a budget, which equals levy + other revenue where levy is less than or levy capacity, and that is adopted before the assessments are calculated. So the rate is just more or less determined via algebra.

A particular owner's bill can vary if their market value deviates from the change in the average value. Just as, according to Young Man, it does in Ontario

I have a couple off-topic but related questions. Why are property taxes the only way that municipalities that have to collect revenue (other than begging the provinces and the feds), and why are municipalities the only level of government that can collect revenues through property taxes? Is there a good reason why there's no municipal sales or income tax? Is there a good reason why the provinces and the feds don't collect property tax?

It's something I've been wondering for a while, and since you mentioned property taxes, I figured this was a good time to ask. :-)

Young man - "As in your city of Ottawa, a property tax "freeze" is a freeze on the amount of revenue the city will take in."

I'm afraid your comment is a typical illustration of the type of sloppy thinking that pervades discussion of property taxes.

First of all, not all city revenue comes from property taxes - user fees, including development fees, are also significant. So a property tax freeze is not the same thing as a revenue freeze.

Second, as you seem to be aware, part of the change in residential property taxes in the past ten to 15 years in Ontario stems from a conscious policy decision to shift the burden of taxation from business to residential property. So even a property tax freeze is not equivalent to a residential property tax freeze.

Finally, new property development will cause growth in tax revenues *even in a Calgary-style revenue neutral assessment system*. This further weakens the link between total tax revenues and individual tax payments.

In light of Frances's response to Young man, I guess I should rephrase my question to "Why are property taxes the only taxes that a municipality can charge, and...?"

Frances -- The thinking is fine. The commenting is sloppy. Yes, property taxes are not the only source of city revenue. I paid an Ottawa parking ticket this morning. I'm aware I paid in money, not beans.

Second -- the province mandated a proportional shift to residential taxation for Toronto, but not for any other city. As you know, there are very good reasons for this. Commercial property taxation in Toronto is unusually high. For the rest Ontario, the shift, where it is occuring, would be the choice of the municipality.

I only asked if you owned property in Ontario because your post made it seem you were unaware of the mechanics of property taxation in your city and province (as opposed to Calgary). Many Ottawa taxpayers are. I apologize if this is not the case. I won't blame the post as being sloppily written. Let's just say the reading was sloppy.

To follow on with a bit more content, the Ontario approach to residential property taxation forces the municipality's councillors to vote to "raise" taxes every time they wish to increase the dollar value of residential property taxes. The Calgary system automatically increases the dollar amount raised when property values increase.

Your preference between on or the other may depend on your views of taxation. I'm an Ontario patriot. I like our version.

I moved to Calgary in 2004 and still live there. The city does a very good job of explaining how the system works and the rationale for it. In addition to the website Frances linked to, everyone gets a quite clear explanatory brochure once a year along with their property tax bill. Indeed, they do a sufficiently good job that the drawback of the system, which Frances points out in his post, had never even occurred to me.

It's also possible the virtues of the system stand out strongly to me because I moved to Calgary from Britain, where the property tax system was royally screwed up. Fortunately, I was a renter in Britain and so didn't have to actually participate in the system. IIRC (and I may not, this was a while ago), at the time property taxes were based on a nationwide assessment that was over a decade old. Property values had of course risen substantially in the interim, and many people were opposed to having a new assessment done because it would cause their taxes to go up dramatically. Independent of how high one thinks taxes ought to be, or from what sources they ought to be collected, or whether they ought to automatically increase with inflation, I think one can agree that the British state of affairs was rather absurd.

As far as the services the city of Calgary provides, my own view matches Alice's. They're totally rubbish at plowing the streets (the city's snow removal policy is basically "wait for a Chinook to melt it"). This puzzles me as it's my impression (admittedly a totally unscientific impression) that the majority of people are in favor of better plowing and would happily, even eagerly, pay for it. On the other hand, while it took the city freakin' forever to decide to do it, we do now have curbside recycling pick-up. And the city's libraries are very good and very well-run, as my wife, a heavy library user, will attest.

Young Man, I believe you've misunderstood the Calgary system: it works as Frances describes, and is indeed revenue neutral. Far from automatically increasing the city's property tax revenue when property values increase, it's designed precisely to prevent that. If the city wants to increase the amount of property tax revenue they collect from the existing housing (leaving aside new building), they have to raise the mill rate.

The following is a description of the property tax system from the City of Ottawa's website:

"The City of Ottawa does not get any extra money as a result of new property assessments. The City budget is determined each year by City Council after consultation with Ottawa residents and businesses. Once the City’s budget is finalized, and the tax requirement is known, the City divides up the tax income it needs among property owners. The value of the property decides what share of the City’s required taxes will be collected from that property, and the City only collects the taxes to support the budget approved by Council. If the budget were to stay the same while property values go up, the tax rate would go down so that the City collects the same amount of money."

Jeremy -- Thanks. That sounds the same as the Ontario system. But Frances also writes

"Finally, new property development will cause growth in tax revenues *even in a Calgary-style revenue neutral assessment system*. "

I assume this means that 'new property developments' in Calgary will increase the dollar amount of residential property taxes raised. Is this only because of recategorization (e.g., commercial to residential)? The link provided in the post above does not cover this.

Anyway, getting back to Rob Ford -- I would hope most Ontarians understand that when Rob Ford, or Larry O'Brien, freeze residential property taxes, that does not mean that the residential property taxes you pay will stay the same.

Young Man: new property development does indeed total property tax revenues in a Calgary-style system, and when Frances made this claim I don't believe he was referring to recategorization (?!) Total property tax revenue goes up simply because new property is built that didn't exist the previous year. So for instance, if a new house is built and assessed at $X, the owner of that new house will owe $Y in property taxes, the same $Y owed by anyone else in the city who owns a house assessed at $X (whether that house is also newly built, or existed last year). The building of that new house causes the city's total take from property taxes to go up by $Y.

I'm afraid I don't quite see what's confusing about this...

This comment thread is amongst the many reasons I despise property value assessment-based property taxes. They're really quite complicated, and even well-informed people have difficulty understanding it. (There's other reasons, too. Particularly, I think that market value based taxes further increase the economic pressure to sprawl onto cheaper land ever farther from the centre.)

New development causing increased revenue without a tax increases is a property of the Alberta system, but is not necessarily a property of all revenue-neutral systems.

The calculation doesn't have to be that complicated. This year's value of existing development is tallied up, and the previous year's levy is divided into it. This gives you the baseline mill rate (your actual property tax is "property value" x "mill rate"), and this mill rate is applied across all properties, new and old, which gives you the baseline levy for this year. If the city requires more money than the baseline, the increase is what is widely reported in the media as being this year's tax increase.

Since increased revenue from new development is presumably used to provide services to these new developments, a stable city has to "increase taxes" by at least inflation every year. At least in recent years, the subset of products and services consumed by cities has tended to have a higher inflation rate than CPI, so the stable increase must be even higher.

When politicians advertise a tax freeze here, this has always meant not even making these inflation adjustments, which has had disastrous and long lasting effects in cities that have tried it.

Frances, I think you're exaggerating the confusion. No Toronto mayor has ever made promises about the mill rate to my knowledge. "No property tax hikes" means roughly that the absolute amount of money raised from property taxes will not increase. Obviously, the mill rate will have to be adjusted if the total assessed value of the housing stock changes, but this doesn't happen every year anyway. (I confess I'm not sure how net additions to the total housing stock would be considered for the purposes of a promise like Ford's, however Toronto is fairly built out anyway.)

I'm confused. Is this blog written by Alice or Frances?

I'd like to know before trying further to understand the author's incentive.

"Finally, new property development will cause growth in tax revenues *even in a Calgary-style revenue neutral assessment system*. This further weakens the link between total tax revenues and individual tax payments."

New development does not increase tax revenues in Calgary, only diversifies the base for existing revenue. Without a tax increase, if there is real growth (development), the mill rate will fall.

Btw, the telling non edit was this in the original blog:

But here in Calgary,when housing prices rise, mill rates automatically fall - the assessment system is revenue neutral.

A google search of Alice reveals the link: http://www.law.ucalgary.ca/faculty/fulltime/woolley

Say Alice, I think I've lived in Calgary far longer than you have (not currently), know a fair bit about how energy investments are made, have appeared in regulatory hearings in energy related matters, and also share Frances's concerns over oil sands toxic ponds.

It seems to me your property values in Calgary have risen exponentially due to the out of control oil sands development of late (was it 40% /yr ? And the unfettered tailings ponds.

I'm more than prepared to debate you further on this point. Are you just griping here because you don't want to pay your fair share? Or a portion of your windfalls?

The blog was written by Frances Woolley. I passed through Calgary en route to the American Economics Association meetings in Denver, which is where I am right now.

Alice Woolley isn't griping about Calgary property taxes. I'm fascinated by Calgary "revenue neutral" policy, which I knew nothing about before visiting the city - again, illustrating how diverse and complicated Canada's policies are.

Gregory S: I agree with you that no one has promised anything about the mill rate. I've tried to figure out what exactly people are promising when they promise a tax freeze, and I'm still in the dark. With income taxes, if someone says 'we're going to cut taxes' you know what they mean - they're promising to cut the tax *rate*. But with property taxes, it's unclear.

You wrote:

'"No property tax hikes" means roughly that the absolute amount of money raised from property taxes will not increase.'

I tried to find a statement from Rob Ford about what was meant by a tax freeze, and from what I could gather (which wasn't much) it seemed to mean (more or less) that the total city budget would not change. Which, given that there should be increased revenue from new development, there should be a (small) decrease in the taxes on existing properties.

Do you really think that this is going to happen? Honestly? Given the amount of municipal spending that is non-discretionary?

In Ottawa, after we elected a tax-freezing mayor, we had tax increases averaging over 3% a year.

Gregory: "Obviously, the mill rate will have to be adjusted if the total assessed value of the housing stock changes, but this doesn't happen every year anyway."

Actually, it usually does.

Have fun in Denver. Apparently Mankiw is looking for fans/friends... awkward.
jvfmwtf?

Thanks Frances for clarifying that I didn't write the post (I wish I were competent to write something that insightful on the issue!). Let me add that I made only three points points a) services in Calgary are not bad - they are mixed; b) Calgarians are not barbarians; c) I agree with Neil that freezing property taxes is irresponsible. Nothing on oil sands that I can see - or is this like playing a Beatles LP backward, only instead of hearing "Paul is dead" you hear "oil sands are good".

I would add a thank you to Just Visiting for linking my webpage, which I'm sure is of intense and avid interest to WCI commenters and bloggers. I would also invite people here to check out the University of Calgary's blog, ABlawg, which provides current commentary on Alberta case law and legislation, including many comments related to oil sands development.

You should all move to British Columbia where, if you are over 65, you can defer your taxes. No neeed to worry about anything, thanks to the NDP

Frances said: "But I think that changes in housing values and changes in income have different impacts on people's well-being, and it may be appropriate for the tax system to recognize this.
...
If the cost of housing hasn't changed, then why should the tax that one pays on housing change?"

A valid point, one that applies to any tax system that taxes stocks of wealth (particularly of in its illiquid forms) rather than flows (income/consumption).

jvfmwtf?...

Nothing on oil sands that I can see - or is this like playing a Beatles LP backward, only instead of hearing "Paul is dead" you hear "oil sands are good".

Let's have a look at the Calgary housing price index, shall we?
http://img85.imageshack.us/img85/4922/calgaryinflationadjustede7.png

Notice how things started to take off in 2004? Hmm, I wonder what was driving that economy?

So, what happens to the tax base for the city? There is a housing boom with new houses with inflated prices being built, and the existing stock of homes more than doubles over just a few yrs. This results in more revenue to the city in terms of building permits, development fees etc. And let's not forget corporate taxes - this being the City with the second highest number of head offices in Canada.

In addition, the provincial and fed gov'ts , flush with oil sands royalties and tax revenues increases grants to the city to assist in new capital projects etc. - relieving the local taxpayer of that burden.

Here's Calgary's annual report for 2009 to peruse through between sessions:
http://www.calgary.ca/docgallery/bu/finance/reports/2009/annual_report_2009.pdf

So, the overall point is, you can't just look at residential property taxes in isolation - it is but just one piece of a booming pie. And we all know what drives the boom. Just ask lovely Rita meter maid.

JVFM, could you

a) Stay on topic, and
b) Refrain from unprovoked snark?

You're becoming tiresome.

Comment deleted.

JvfM, you have now worn out your welcome. All of your comments will suffer a similar fate, so don't waste your time and mine. SG

test

Here is an e-mail I wrote to my ward in Calgary looking for disclosure on how the assessments are completed to come up with my "market-value". Sorry if it is a bit long winded, but I want to paint the picture and I use lots of words.

********** Beginning of e-mail **************
Good Morning Mr. Demong,

I recently spoke to Mr. Chandler of your office and he suggested I send an e-mail regarding this matter.

I am looking to find out the calculation of how a property within the city of Calgary is calculated. I realize that it is based on a "market-value assessment". This is not what I am looking for. More what I am looking for is how does the city calculate a tax on a given property. A few years ago (2-3) I called the tax office of the city to make such and inquiry and was told that the calculation is not for public disclosure due to something along the line of "intellectual property" of the city tax office and also the privacy of other property owners. What an absolute farce and bunch of malarkey! As a tax-paying citizen of a democratic society, I should be able to see how such tax on my property is being calculated. I pay my taxes to this taxation model can be appropriated and then I am told that a disclosure of this model (of which I and numerous other tax payers paid for) is not permitted for me to look at. Maybe this society is not democratic, but dictatorship! This should be made public for ALL to view, what is there to hide. Intellectual Property belongs to the employer, and as tax payers WE are the employer. I think it to be very pompous to sit on one's high-horse and say we are in a democracy and withhold how we are getting charged. The secrecy of it is just ludicrous!

I personally think the "market-value assessment" is not very appropriate to begin with, because I understand it to work in this manner and is therefore flawed. I own a property I shall call X and some else owns a property I shall call Y. X is a 1000 sq.ft home on a lot of 3000 sq.ft. Lot Y has the same 1000 and 3000 sq. ft.

Lot X has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, 1 single garage and 1 shed.
Lot Y has 4 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, 1 single garage.

Both of these properties are of the same age. Who should pay more if at all and by how much. Should Y pay more because of more bedrooms or does the shed from X offset the bedroom? How much more is that extra 0.5 bath worth?

As a buyer of these units I would likely pay more for which one????? So here is the dilemma -- If lot Y sells for $300, 000 is it fair to say that X would go for the same $300,000. Let's add in some fun stuff to this scenario. X has all new appliances, tiling and hardwood on most of the flooring, but needs a new roof, whereas Y has 5 year old roof renovations and carpet throughout. Is it fair to say X = Y???? As a home buyer putting a offer on X or Y, would you put in the same offer???? How about X has all new up to date windows, gold-plated counters, ceiling fans in every room? Should that make a difference? I would think so. So why or how does the city come up with a number for X and for Y. Obviously they are not equal properties when all is factored in, so what are the new appliances worth on a property tax calculation because as a home buyer, they would CERTAINLY be considered in an offer. But X am still getting the same street cleaning services as Y, the same garbage collection services, the same fire and police services, etc....why because of the value of their home.....no, it is because their property is within city limits. Why should I pay more or less than the next guy for the same exact services because my property is "assessed (maybe not actually)" more or less valuable than his? Make it simple: Tax the size and developed land of the property, not because they live in a certain area or not, unless of course there are better or less services for said area that warrants such differences (which there are none of really). And at the very least, disclose how such things are calculated so taxpayers can see how there.

Here are some of the items I am looking for:
1. How much is the undeveloped land on a property worth per sq. ft ($/sq.ft)
2. How much is the developed land on a property worth per sq. ft ($/sq.ft)
3. How much is an attached garage worth per sq.ft? Unattached? 1 car? 2 car? 3 car?
4. How much is hardwood vs tile vs carpet, vs linoleum, vs concrete?
5. How much is a bedroom worth..Is it the size of the bedroom, or is it the level it is on, or is it number of room within the dwelling?
6. Is there a difference in 3 baths vs 5 baths????? If not, why not....as a buyer it is certainly different?
7. Are newer, older windows of any value difference?
8. 9. 10. 11. etc.

When you have received the calculation, I would like to place my property in the formula and see what the results would be. I would like to keep my property unknown at this time so that I will not get a "fixed formula" that will fit my property so that it would work out perfectly with the calculation you will be seeking, until I have had opportunity to use the formula myself on my property and some of my family and friends' property to how it flows.

I would hope you get better answers from the tax department than I have. I look forward to hearing your reply on this matter. I can be reached at this e-mail. Believe it or not, I have been often biting my lip as I write this e-mail because there are so many things I would like to have mentioned here, but have refrained from doing so.

Thank you for your time.


Regards,
********** End of e-mail **********


That was sent end of November 2010...to date I still have nothing substantial to work with.

Here is a follow-up e-mail an response

****** Beginning of e-mail (2) Sent January 05, 2011 *******
Good Afternoon Peter/Craig,

It has been over a month since my initial request on this matter and still no word. I have heard in the past that city hall is broken and was not sure if it was true or just grumbling. The more and more I see and hear, it appears to be true.

This matter is not just for me, but for every Calgary tax payer. It appears as though my assessment of the Tax Department in non-disclosure on how it taxes its citizens is not far off, otherwise, I would expect to have seen something by now on this with specifics on the formula for calculations. I am not sure how to go about getting this issue raised so that it can get some traction as I feel it needs it, but I was hoping my Ward office and elected Alderman would see the non-cooperation of the Tax Office and bring this issue immediately to Council....Let's get this fixed already please.

When I initially spoke to Craig and informed him of how the Tax Department worked on disclosing this matter, he was appalled to hear that they responded in such way as he said they work for the citizens of Calgary and are therefore employed by those same citizens. Also, he mentioned as elected officials that alderman work for their constituents. I am both a Calgary citizen and ward 14 constituent (who voted for Peter Demong in the 2010 election), but I seem to not be heard on this matter.

Peter, I am typically not one to tell someone how to do their job, but my suggestion here is to quit "trying to get blood from a stone" as Craig puts it, and bring this matter to the immediate attention of Council. Why should we be subject to undisclosed tax calculations????????????? It is almost like saying I will tax you $2000 because of what you look like and the next person $1800 because of what they look like. Why $2000, well just because that is my method of assessing, no need for you to know my methods, because they are mine -- just pay me! Did the person paying $2000 pay $200 more because they have red hair, or because they weigh less, or because they have brown eyes. Not for anyone to know but me!! Ludicrous.

I would sincerely appreciate an ETA on this matter if I could. Thank you for you time.

Regards,
****** End of e-mail (2) *******

Here is January 05 follow-up response
******** Beginning of e-mail (3) sent from Ward office to Stuart ***********
TO: Stuart Dalgleish, Director / City Assessor

Stuart,

Please read the email below.

I have been trying to get some questions answered but to no avail. If you could help me on this, it would be appreciated.
******** End of e-mail (3) ***********

Nothing back from Stuart to date.........sigh

Keener - property tax assessments are generally based on regression analysis, so market value of home X in neighbourhood Y = a*lot size + b*# bathrooms + c*# bedrooms etc (a, b and c might differ across neighbourhoods, or there might be a neighbourhood fixed effect, so market value = ....+d*neighbourhood). With sufficient snooping you might be able to work out (more or less) what a, b and c are - you should be able to do it with assessment #s from a fairly small # of homes in your neighbourhood. When I looked into it a few years ago in my part of Ottawa, you could predict the assessment of a home pretty accurately just from the lot size.

I don't think the Ontario Municipal Asssessment Corp gives out its market value assessment formula either.

Well, that explains why the City of Calgary was opposed to the voluntary census...

Keener,

My impression is that you will not get far when you approach a government official and start telling them that, as a taxpayer, you are their boss and so they need to drop whatever they are doing and do what you tell them.

We tend to live in a hierarchical world with division of labor, so their boss is -- their boss, not you -- and that person is giving them mandates as well as judging their performance. If they are a good boss -- they will protect them from interlopers who barge into their office and try to pile other tasks on them.

If you think the disclosure policy should be changed, you need to make a case for the policy change first to the leaders of the bureaucracy and then to the political leaders. Unless you can get enough of your fellow citizens to exert pressure, your own idiosyncratic priorities will not become the priorities of the bureaucracy, and this is a Good Thing.

Frances, Sorry I wasn't clear. I meant that the "province-wide property assessment" does not occur every year. The mill rate will change every year. Anyway, you are obviously an expert in this area, and are unlikely to learn anything from me. My real point was to question the premise of the post that Ford's promise is so unclear as to be almost meaningless. Mayor Mel Lastman made similar promises, and so most Torontonians have a pretty good idea what's in store for them. Overall, the media seems to be doing a decent job of covering Ford by focusing one by one on the concrete policies he's struggling to put in place. For example, there has been a good discussion of the economics of LRT vs. subways. And now a lively discussion about saving money by holding the line on the police budget. Not much to enrage a microeconomist here?

Nice explanation of the ins and outs of property taxation in Ontario here.

http://spacingtoronto.ca/2008/03/28/property-taxes-are-weird/

Pastric: "Yeah. Calgary has terrible services. I lived there briefly. They don't even have recycling pick-up. Barbarians."

Actually . . .

http://www.calgary.ca/bluecart

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