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Archive: Town increases tax relief from slots

Originally published March 2006
Everybody in Fort Erie should head down to one of the local gaming establishments and personally thank all the slots and bingo players.

Since 1999, they have been subsidizing local taxes to an incredible degree.

This year they will knock five per cent directly off the local portion of the tax bill, but capital spending on roads, facilities renewal and the fire department will be reduced.

This was councillor Ann-Marie Noyes’ first budget as the chair of the finance committee.

Slots revenue for tax subsidization was originally slated to amount to $587,000, but another $55,000 was added during budget meetings.

Interestingly, although gaming revenues are declining they will provide the same relief for taxpayers as last year.

What suffers most are roads and storm capital works (down $294,000 from last year), facilities renewal (down $150,000), and the fire department gets nothing from gaming compared to $185,000 last year.

And they will also pay for a parking lot at Bay Beach, some road and storm sewer reconstruction, some town facility repairs and playgrounds.

They will also pay for the operation of the Community Gaming Development Corporation, marketing initiatives of the Economic Development Corporation, Community Health and Wellness programs, planning studies and the Communities in Bloom program.

Gaming revenues — about $2.5 million from the slots and more than $500,000 from bingo licensing — are one-quarter what the town exacts from property owners in taxes.

It will be interesting to find out if the revenues meet the projection when the end of the year rolls in and whether the decision to choose Noyes as budget chairman was a good one.

The chief administrative officers of Ontario municipalities commissioned a comparison study to see how they stack up against each other in delivering services and their costs.

Fort Erie, it turns out, ranks comparatively low as far as tax burden is concerned and comparatively high for water and sewer rates.

BMA Consulting did the study of 67 municipalities with 81 per cent of the provincial population and found for a representative single detached bungalow, the yearly taxes were $2,229.

The average in Ontario was $2,641, the minimum $1,680 and the maximum (Toronto as it turns out) $4,044.

The water/sewer rates were a different story: Fort Erie $1,075, average $656, maximum $1,260.

The total burden (taxes plus water) puts Fort Erie dead on the provincial average of $3,304.

In Niagara, Fort Erie has lower taxes than any other municipality. Based on a different measure of the average 2005 tax bill, Fort Erie is $2,090, compared to $3,319 in Pelham down to $2,360 in Port Colborne.

As a percentage of household income, local taxes in Fort Erie are the lowest at 3.9 per cent. The provincial average is four per cent. Only Thorold came close at 4.1 per cent. Wainfleet is 5.3 per cent.

Last year, only Fort Erie showed no increase in the tax rate. Pelham weighed in at a whopping 16.11 percent and Lincoln 6.42. Only Grimsby came in under two per cent at 1.82.

The Niagara Falls numbers are interesting. The second largest city in the Region and easily the most commercially dynamic with a “world-class” billion-dollar casino and another second-class money machine, skyscraper hotels and bingo halls raised its tax rate 2.05 per cent last year.

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