I feel like I have stepped into a time machine and been transported back to the beginning of this century.
In 2000, the city council of the day tried to roll what’s known as the ‘transit tax levy’ into the general mill rate.
It didn’t work.
The transit levy is a carry-over from Clearwater days. Before amalgamation, the town of Clearwater entered into an agreement with Sarnia to provide bus service to Wiltshire subdivision. Consequently, the cost of this service was recovered through a special service rate on the taxes for just those residents who received the service.
You see, people moved into Clearwater knowing that they would receive less service and thus, enjoy lower taxes.
In 2003, city council agreed that, to be fair, only those who received transit service should pay for it.
Fast forward to today. What has changed?
Nothing, yet council has asked city staff to review the property taxes associated with Sarnia Transit.
Some claim it is a societal benefit for all to pay for conventional transit service. It’s been equated to fire, police, parks, beaches, arenas, etc.
But the counterpoint to that argument is this: ALL residents of Sarnia can use those services and benefits, if they so choose. If you need the fire service, just call. If you want to go to the beach, you can. Yes, even those with bus stops at their front door have a CHOICE.
The folks who are not within the transit area do not have a choice when it comes to buses. Most would gladly pay their share if they had the option to use buses.
I live in a transit area and feel that, again to be fair, I should pay for transit whether I use it or not.
However, if council proceeds with this, property owners in non-transit areas would see an increase of $11 to $141 per $100,000 of tax assessment.
So, I would like to ask – if you live on the corner of Blackwell and Churchill, or Confederation and Mandaumin, or Telfer and London Line, should you pay for transit service you are never going to receive?
Our business district on Plank Road, our farming sector in rural Sarnia, and residential communities in Twin Lakes, Lakeshore/Blackwell area are never going to see bus service, but are being asked to pay for it.
If you think that’s fair, do nothing. If you don’t think that’s fair, then make sure council knows how you feel and attend a public meeting on June 19, at 3 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall and have your say!
The staff report, including the input received, will be dealt with at a July 10 council meeting. You must register by noon on July 5 to speak to council.
You can also email questions and comments to email@example.com by June 23, with the message – NO SERVICE, NO TAX.
Debbie Krukowski is an active community advocate with a focus on public process and environmental issues.