The City of Greater Sudbury is lagging in assessment growth compared to other municipalities.
In its 2021 budget, the city recorded an assessment growth of 0.49 per cent, which places it as the third-lowest among 18 municipalities surveyed by the Ontario Regional and Single Tier Treasurers.
These municipalities ranged in annual assessment growth from 0.23 per cent and 2.06 per cent, and while a list of the municipalities polled wasn’t provided, members of the group represent jurisdictions with more than 90 per cent of the province’s population.
City financial planning and budgeting manager Steve Facey included these findings in a report to mayor and council presented at last week’s finance and administration committee meeting.
Assessment growth, Facey explained, is “actual new construction, less demolitions and appeals” which serves to broaden the tax base.
Valuation change is different and relates to how individual properties change in value from one year to another, which can affect how the tax burden is distributed but doesn’t affect the overall total collected by the municipality.
“A lower assessment growth puts upward pressure on the municipal tax change and results in a higher percentage change year over year,” Facey explained, noting that those municipalities to record greater levels of assessment growth generally see lower property tax changes.
Facey’s presentation was intended to help the city’s elected officials prepare for 2022 budget deliberations, which will be sparked in earnest when city administration releases its proposed budget on Nov. 2. It sought to answer a question city council asked in June regarding how other municipalities achieve tax levy changes lower than the rate of inflation.
Although various choices around policies and service levels were also cited as influencing tax levy changes, mayor and council centred on assessment growth during this week’s meeting.
“Growth is needed,” Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti said, asking city administration what is being done to improve matters.
“We are far from the only player in this discussion, and there’s a very healthy level of competition between communities for certain industries for certain types of growth that facilitates the high-value employment opportunities and long-term success that comes from attracting those types of businesses,” CAO Ed Archer said.
“Broadly ... there are a variety of specific things we’re doing … those types of investments and choices council makes through the budget each year are key drivers.”
The Greater Sudbury Development Corporation works to drive growth, and Archer said efforts such as the one-stop-shop under construction at the main floor of Tom Davies Square for developers and residents conducting transactions will make the system easier to navigate.
As previously reported, the city’s buildings department staff have overcome obstacles as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but have been making improvements throughout to mitigate delays. The department has issued 1,277 building permits so far this year to the end of August, which is up from the 1,161 issued by the same time last year.
Mayor Brian Bigger pointed to the relaxation of development charges along major corridors as helping put more shovels in the ground.
“We’ve really provided a lot of incentives to the point that even with the reductions in development charges my understanding is that we’re collecting more development charges at this point in time based on increased volumes of investment in construction in our community.”
Bigger also cited improved customer service through efforts such as the 311 phone line and enhanced communication technologies with helping make the city a welcoming place to do business.
These efforts are starting to pay off, he said, citing “increasing confidence in investors to invest within our community.”
Despite Greater Sudbury lagging behind in assessment growth, Facey’s report clarifies that the city has the “second-lowest level of property taxation in the province when comparing the typical detached bungalow amongst municipalities with over 100,000 in population.”
After studying city administration’s proposed budget throughout November, the city’s elected officials will commence budget deliberations on Nov. 29.
During the finance and administration committee’s June 22 meeting it was decided that city staff be asked to prepare a budget that includes a property tax increase of no more than three per cent.
During Wednesday’s live-streamed State of the City address, Mayor Brian Bigger said city council was committed to keeping the tax increase as low as possible and that his understanding is that “citizens want to maintain the services we currently deliver.”The city’s 2021 budget saw the city’s elected officials approve a property tax increase of four per cent.