Taking an Interest

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 12, 2005

A letter published in the Hamilton Spectator yesterday ("Why is it the out-of-towners take the biggest tax hit?", April 11) decries having to shoulder a higher percent tax increase "for rebuilding the roads, bridges, sewers and other crumbling infrastructure in the old City of Hamilton that the residents there couldn't otherwise afford."

The author calls it "discrimination" that Hamilton residents are seeing a 2.5 percent increase in property tax while Dundas residents are being hit with 4.9 percent and Flamborough residents face 4.8 percent.

This may be good politics but it's bad math, ignoring the effect a smaller base price has on a larger percent increase.

Using the City of Hamilton's property tax calculator, I calculated the 2004 taxes (excluding Police and Education, which are fixed across all areas) for a $200,000 residence in Hamilton, Dundas (with HSR), Dundas (without HSR), and Flamborough.

2004 Property Tax
Home Value Area Tax
$200,000 Hamilton $2,382
Dundas (HSR) $1,949
Dundas (no HSR) $1,900
Flamborough $1,632

Increasing the taxes by 2.5%, 4.9%, 4.9% and 4.8%, respectively yielded the following final taxes.

2005 Property Tax
Home Value Area 2004 Tax % Increase 2005 Tax
$200,000 Hamilton $2,382 2.5 $2,442
Dundas (HSR) $1,949 4.9 $2,045
Dundas (no HSR) $1,900 4.9 $1,993
Flamborough $1,632 4.8 $1,710

Despite a lower percent increase, Hamilton still pays the highest actual amount. The differing percentages this writer scorns are actually helping to make the regional property tax system less discriminatory.

Since the cost to deliver residential infrastructure is often higher in rural areas and lower densities mean less payers, city taxpayers still carry more than their share of the total tax burden.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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