|City of Hamilton
The Citizens' Forum has a mandate from City Council to make a recommendation on the future of area rating of property tax. This is an advisory function only. City Council is not obliged to follow their recommendation.
There are some limits on what the Citizens' Forum can recommend. They are as follows:
- The recommendation must be legal. In other words, it must follow provincial legislation, i.e. what is allowed by the Municipal Act;
- Area rating is not a way of imposing user fees on different neighbourhoods. It is to account for access to services, not actual usage of services in different parts of the city.
The Citizens' Forum is encouraged to consider the following:
- Evolutionary process - the recommendation should be designed to allow for future changes in the city without a requirement to revisit this process. For example, if an urban/rural split were recommended, the urban boundary will not be fixed in time but will be altered as growth occurs.
- Revenue Neutral - the direction to City Staff was to develop a recommendation that redistributes tax according to the level of service available, not to increase the size of the tax pie for area rated services.
Click here to see the background information and Terms of Reference passed by City Council that govern this undertaking.
Provincial Legislation and Area Rating
According to Canada's Constitution, municipalities exist at the "pleasure" of the provinces. This means the provinces have constitutional authority to decide what municipalities can and cannot do. In Ontario, the provincial government defines the scope of municipalities' power and authority through the Municipal Act. The legislation only allows the area rating of an identifiable "special service".
A "special service" is defined in the Municipal Act (Section 326) as:
"a service or activity of a municipality or a local board of the municipality that is,
(a) not being provided or undertaken generally throughout the municipality, or
(b) being provided or undertaken at different levels or in a different manner in different parts of the municipality."
The City of Hamilton is also subject to the City of Hamilton Act (1999), which amalgamated the former suburbs and the former city.