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'Tax cap' pitched by Windsor councillor to curb big budgets

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With higher than standard property tax increases in municipalities across Essex County, the province and the country in 2024, one Windsor city councillor believes he has the answer: a property tax cap.

“Municipalities have had some pretty, pretty high property tax increases as of late,” said Ward 4 Coun. Mark McKenzie.

He asked a council question at Monday’s council meeting, hoping administration can come back with a policy for future councils which would cap their ability to pass a budget with a property tax increase above a given amount, to be determined.Ward 4 Coun. Mark McKenzie proposes idea of a ‘property tax cap’ for future City of Windsor councils on Feb. 27, 2024. (Rich Garton/CTV News Windsor)

Whether that’s a five, six or seven per cent cap, which McKenzie says “is realistic and something that that Future Councils would be able to work with,” he doesn’t want to see any future tax increases in Windsor go higher — now, or ever.

“I'm not so much worried about this current council. But we don't know what the next council is gonna look like or, you know, four councils from now,” Mark McKenzie said.

“It's more just about protecting the taxpayer and saying, look, we know that people are struggling,” he said.

The question stirred some debate around the table.

“Living in the moment and making decisions for the moment is very important, and I wouldn't want to see that taken away from future councils,” said Ward 3 Coun. Renaldo Agostino.

“I think this is a solution searching for a problem,” said Ward 9 Coun. Kieran McKenzie, who said historically, Windsor has been very far below the median for tax increases for municipalities in Ontario.

Windsor’s most recent property tax increase came in at 3.91 per cent.

Kieran McKenzie said it has nothing to do with how the city can gather revenues or spend money.

“It's about this particular Council, inhibiting the decision making that Future Councils may be able to undertake and consider,” Kieran McKenzie said.

The question was ultimately not submitted but will be discussed at a later date.

According to city officials, recent implications caused by the addition of Strong Mayor powers from the province makes it unclear how this proposed cap could work within the framework of the Municipal Act.

City communications director Jason Moore said the city will look into this as part of a bigger conversation around budgeting.

“The plan is to present the findings of this research to City Council during an upcoming special meeting, alongside other recent changes to the Municipal Act in the coming months,” Moore said.

Mark McKenzie believes any policy created by this council could be overturned by a future council, but he says it creates another barrier where councillors will have to explain their vote.

“My job right now is to is to represent the Windsor taxpayer, and that's what I'm doing,” he said.

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