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CFBB 2018 Budget Delegation – December 6, 2017

 

Good afternoon Madam Mayor Councillors and City Staff,

My name is Chris Bejnar, Co-Chair of Citizens For a Better Brampton.

Two weeks ago Doug Bryden and I participated in the cities latest strategic planning workshop FutureReadyBrampton. An inspiring event hosted by world renowned urban planner Larry Beasley. CFBB contributed positively by submitting over 40 ideas and comments as a group as well as at least 20 individual submissions from group members.

This strategic process generated many positive ideas and visions for our city from many proud, diverse and hardworking citizens. Unfortunately one important detail was missing from this grand plan and vision, FUNDING. Not just funding from the Federal and Provincial governments but contributions from the investors and landlords of our city, who are benefitting financially, but not contributing to our future prosperity. A funding issue that CFBB believes is one of the most important challenges facing this city moving forward.

We all want and support projects like a University and Innovation Centre, new recreational facilities, parks, libraries, the Riverwalk and desperately needed additional healthcare facilities. These initiatives are for the benefit of ALL residents, but cannot continue to be funded on the backs of just the property tax payers alone with enormous city property tax hikes of 3.7%, 5.4% and 4.6%. As Jim McCarter boldly stated in his 2015 financial review, the more residents we have, the higher operational costs there will be. There is a direct relationship. We need to find a way to somehow mitigate those costs.

We are encouraged that in this year’s budget there are funds allocated for a Secondary Unit task force. We believe that there needs to be clarification as to what the mandate of this task force will be, how many staff will be allocated to this project and what goals they will try to accomplish. This is a good first step in our opinion, but we need much more.

Mayor Jeffery, back in 2011, you were one of the cabinet Ministers of the McGuinty Liberal government when Bill 140 was introduced and passed, becoming law on January 1, 2012. A Bill that unfairly passed the burden onto municipalities to allow all secondary units. This Bill passed without ANY financial or legislative assistance to the municipalities from the Province. As a result cities like Brampton with a disproportionate percentage of residential tax base revenue have been negatively impacted. Honest hardworking property tax payers who do not have a secondary unit have been left unfairly subsidizing all of the landlords/investors’ tenants by this Bill. With one of the fastest growing populations in Canada, we simply have not received our fair share of funding for infrastructure, healthcare and transit to support the influx of new residents. What’s concerning is that we don’t even know what our true population is or how many unregistered secondary units there are? Is it 30,000 units? A fellow advocacy group Brampton Beats was quoted in the Toronto Star back in June claiming that we could possibly have 100,000 more residents than our official population states. How are we to plan a future ready city when we don’t even know our true population? Unfortunately many landlords and investors have taken advantage of this legislation. They have been circumventing the existing rules and by-laws of our city to create wealth for themselves while honest hardworking taxpayers who do not have a secondary unit must try and budget for significant property tax increases double or triple the rate of inflation. This is simply not sustainable, it is not fair.

For the record I and CFBB members believe that secondary units are a vital and necessary form of affordable housing for our city. There is no argument here. Hopefully we all can agree that secondary units need to be safe, properly registered, and somehow contribute to the future prosperity of our city. Bill 140 needs to be amended to ensure that these basic conditions are met and that municipalities have the powers to enforce or create additional revenue.

Let me highlight an actual example documented by one of our members with a neighbour’s home.  I believe that several Councillors, city staff, and by-law enforcement have all been made aware of this particular situation. Even though everything was reported, pictures taken, many e-mails and calls exchanged, this secondary unit, to our knowledge, still has not been properly registered and there has not been ONE extra tax dollar collected from the property owners over the past year.

If any Council member would want an exact address with copies of all e-mails, we can make them available confidentially.

Let’s review this Example:

  • this 3000 sq. ft. single family residential home in the McLaughlin and Queen area of our city was sold by the original owner in the Fall of 2016 for close to $800,000 dollars.
  • the new owners moved in December 2016 and immediately began work on widening the driveway without a permit and to an illegal size. A wider driveway that contributes to storm run-off and detracts from the streetscape of the neighbourhood.
  • Work immediately began on digging a below grade entrance through the garage into the basement without a permit. Our member had extreme difficulty getting By-Law to respond to calls and emails regarding the digging of the entrance as most of the work was done on weekends when inspectors are not working. As a result of the complaints the new owners decided to sell, discouraged that the existing neighbours were “not cooperating”.
  • Home sold again on May 17 2017 for close to $1 million. What I would also like to highlight is the Province collected approximately $35,000 in Land Tax revenue from the 2 sales transactions of the property within a 12 month period; the city has received zero dollars.
  • We were informed that 2 brothers jointly bought the home.
  • We were informed that 2 brothers and their wives, 1 young child and the parents of the brothers live in the upper portion of the house. That’s 7 residents.
  • We were informed that there are at least 5 renters in the basement.  Two young couples and one of their sisters. That’s 5 more residents.
  • 5 cars park in the driveway.
  • Recently 1 car was parking on the front lawn and began driving over the adjoining neighbour’s lawn to exit the driveway.
  • To our knowledge, the secondary unit still has not been registered with the City.
  • Property taxes as per the MLS listing were only $5,854.00 per year working out to just $487 per resident.
  • So we have 12 residents living in the home. This could easily increase to 15 if more children are born to the families who live on the upper levels of the home. 12 residents living in the home with property taxes collected based on a single family residential assessment. How many times is something like this being duplicated across the city? As well, investors/landlords are collecting rental income that in many cases is not being reported accurately on their CRA income tax returns further compounding tax revenue losses.

Tenants help pay the mortgage, as well as, help offset the costs of home ownership by providing landlords the ability to mitigate these significant property tax hikes. How about our seniors living on fixed incomes, or couples who have a large mortgage and are trying to put their kids through university or college? How are they expected to cope with these increases?

Ask yourselves if this is a sustainable path for Brampton’s future?  We just completed a process to make Brampton #FutureReady. What we also need is a workshop titled #FutureProsperity if we are serious about solving this problem. We cannot keep counting on the property tax payers who do not have a secondary unit to keep subsidizing city initiatives with tax increases double or triple times the inflation rate! It’s not sustainable and it’s not fair.

We believe a potential solution could be to create a new tax rate for all residential dwellings with a secondary unit. As well, we need to place the responsibility on the homeowner to prove to the city that they do or do not have an unregistered secondary unit, not the other way around. New categories could be created like single detached/secondary, semi-detached secondary and town home/secondary all with slightly higher tax rates. The goal would be to collect an additional $200-$300 in annual tax revenues from these income producing residential properties. Imagine how an additional $250 in annual fees for every secondary unit in this city could contribute to city coffers. If a landlord collects $1,000 per month for a secondary unit, that’s $12,000 per year! Would it not be reasonable for that same landlord to pay $250 annually to help offset those higher operational costs that his tenants create? To help keep property taxes in line with the rate of inflation? We thinks so, hopefully Council does as well.

Now we don’t have time to read all of my Budget delegation from last year, so I will highlight just one paragraph. A year ago I said that,

“We need this Council to aggressively call out the Province for the poor planning of healthcare in Brampton and to immediately call on the Province to begin the RFP process for a fully funded Phase 2 of Peel Memorial that will include a second ER and a minimum of 250+ in-patient beds. It’s about time we start to become a bit more aggressive with this government or any future provincial government for the needs of our diverse, dynamic and growing city”

Sounds familiar?

All of the recent media attention has clearly showed that Brampton has been neglected by this provincial government. The delivery of adequate Healthcare is the responsibility of the Province, not the municipality. It is a need, not a want! So why did we as Bramptonians need to convince the province? Why did we need to commit to a $60 million property tax levy so that healthcare could return to the closed Peel Memorial site, thus ending speculation of a potential sale of the site?

Why did the province not recognize the shortage of beds and lack of ER capacity when for years advocacy groups such as ours and experts said we desperately needed them? As we all can agree, healthcare is a right for our citizens. The data and evidence that has recently been reported in the media has been loud and clear that we simply need more beds and ER capacity for our growing city.

In our opinion this provincial government has been negligent in providing the quality of healthcare this city desperately needs. It has been negligent in properly funding our fast growing population.

Therefore we are suggesting that this Council draft a resolution demanding that once the tax levy concludes in 2019, the $60 million collected from the hard working property tax payers of this city be reimbursed by the Province. After all, it’s the province’s responsibility to fund hospitals and build them where they are needed the most.

Our claim is not so farfetched. If Toronto residents didn’t have to pay a tax levy for the $300 million redevelopment of William Osler’s Etobicoke General Campus, then why did Brampton property taxpayers have to pay a tax levy to convince the province to re-build Peel Memorial? How is that OK? Once reimbursed, the $60 million could then be used to help offset future property tax increases or be used for city building initiatives like the University and Innovation Centre substantially decreasing the proposed property tax hikes.

If time permits, I would also like to discuss two more important budget items.

How much legal fees and staff resources have been spent to date to fight the Inzola lawsuit? Are there any provisions for these costs in the 2018 budget? Were the recent cost awards totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars against the city covered by the insurance company or did taxpayers foot the bill? Will staff confirm that the city’s insurance will cover the full costs of any financial awards if the city loses the court case, scheduled to go to trial in the spring?  From what has been reported to date, taxpayers have every reason to be concerned. We require that staff provide assurances in writing that taxpayers are protected.

Finally, my Co-Chair Doug Bryden delegated at the November 28, 2016 budget committee meeting asking for Mayor Jeffrey to be open and transparent about her staff compliment, what their job descriptions were, how much they were paid and if they were contracted or salaried employees. Madam Mayor, you did promise at last year’s budget committee with Councillor Sprovieri also commenting on this subject. It’s been over a year now and we have yet to see your office provide these details. CFBB believe that taxpayers have the right to know what your staff does and how much they are paid in light of these substantial property tax hikes. Will you finally commit to provide this information?

Update: Mayor Jeffery’s office responded to CFBB’s second request dated November 14, 2017 the day before the final budget council meeting. Job descriptions were provided, however important information was missing such as; the salary or salary range of each position, confirmation if the position was contract or salary, as well as, an updated organizational chart.


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