In a release Thursday, mayoral candidate Jeff Huska said if elected, he would keep city taxes as low as possible.
Early budget forecasts estimate a tax increase of 4.9 per cent in 2015, 3.5 per cent in 2016 and 3.1 per cent in 2017.
“I will not support the increase of municipal taxes higher than the rate of inflation for that fiscal year and will work diligently with city staff to reduce and remove any unnecessary financial burdens,” he said in his news release.
Huska said some projects – such as the $23-million plan to straighten The Kingsway just past Brady Street - should be put on hold.
“The city has been buying up property in the area with an eye on eventually moving ahead with the project. That money can do a lot of good in many different places around our city. As much as straightening that road would be nice, we need to prioritize what is important now.”
Huska said some of those dollars could be used to upgrade the underserviced areas in industrial parks, like the one found on Elisabella Street.
“By giving these businesses the services they actually have been paying for with their tax dollars, the city is making a statement that they are indeed open for business."
Huska said he’d look at and develop other areas in the city that can be utilized for industrial parks. There is a lot of land along the major roads connecting the communities that make up the city of Greater Sudbury.
“Since our mining companies have strategically relocated many of their buildings underground to reduce their property tax bills, I would open negotiations with these same companies to utilize much of their surface land for industrial parks. For example, there are large parcels of land unused between Greater Sudbury and Azilda or along Highway 69 North.”
Huska said the city needs to also look at more P3 funding models that represent contracts between the city and a private party, in which the private party assumes substantial financial, technical and operational risk in the project. By doing this, it eliminates the city imposing higher tax rates to cover projects that are needed and foster growth.
These aren’t just projects like arenas, said Huska.
“P3 funding modules could also work for smaller projects, like the assisted living complex they are looking at developing in Capreol. A more general term is 'shared service delivery,' where municipalities join together with private firms, or with non-profits to provide services to citizens without impacting the overall tax base.”
In regard to tax incentives zones, they have shown an ability to promote growth, but they can cause a great deal of inequity. Tax incentivse zones can create issues regarding fair treatment as the new businesses receive tax breaks while existing businesses that are longtime taxpayers and providers of local employment don’t receive any form of relief.
Also, annual rebates to businesses on all corporate income tax for operations must first be agreed upon by the provincial government. These tax incentives zones, like those in P.E.I., are not presently found in Ontario and the city of Greater Sudbury doesn’t have the authority to grant those rebates.
As mayor, Huska said in his release that if companies aren’t paying their taxes, lost municipal revenues have to come from another source.
“I believe that the city of Greater Sudbury is responsible to promote our city and recruit new businesses that stimulate economic growth. I would support deferring portions of development fees and taxes or allowing them to be paid through instalments.”