City Council approves 2023 tax increase rooted in “resiliency”

Photo by: Brenden Cowan

Residents of St. Catharines are geared to spend an additional 1.12 per cent on the city portion of their tax bills, compared to 2022.

The increased tax, referred to by the city as a “resiliency budget,” was approved by city council on Monday, Jan. 16. A major reason for this change is to offset costs imposed upon the city due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The median home in St. Catharines is valued at $255,905, meaning the average taxpayer will need to pay an additional $18.85.

“This year’s budget helps to continue the path out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and puts the city on a better foundation than we’ve had in quite some time,” said Mayor Mat Siscoe, according to a press release. “Staff did a good job managing the fiscal capacity we had due to the transit upload to the region, and we will be able to fill some identified gaps while also addressing health and safety issues that came to light during the pandemic.”

This type of tax increase is not unfamiliar to residents of St. Catharines: in 2022, a similar increase was 2.97 per cent over the year prior.

The city noted an increase in financial reliance from the public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and stated that this increase will not only allow the city to replenish some of its lost resources, but will support their finances in any potential future emergencies.

The original proposal during the council’s meeting was an increase of 0.10 per cent from 2022 – this would have resulted in the median homeowner paying an additional $1.64 in 2023.

Grantham Councillor Bill Phillips disagreed, making an amendment to increase this portion of the tax bill by one per cent. Phillips argued that this move would help offset future tax increases and function as a “savings account” for residents.

The amendment passed unanimously.

“The 2023 operating budget presents a one-time opportunity for the city to regain some [of] its financial sustainability,” said Kristine Douglas, director of financial management services and city treasurer. “Balancing the experiences of the past three years with the opportunities and challenges ahead, now is the time to build resilience for what lays ahead.”

Mayor Siscoe added that for residents, this increase is lessened by the transferring of public transit costs to the Niagara Region. In total, the newly amalgamated transit plan will see $13.5 million moved to regional taxes.

This comes right after the city had just approved its 2023 capital budget in Dec. St. Catharines’ overall operating budget of $128.2 million is composed primarily of property taxes.

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