Proposed Fire Fighting Payment Structure

A letter I wrote to the City of Edmonton’s Utility Committee and my councillor in opposition of a proposal to change the City’s Fire Fighting payment structure:

I’m writing to you in response to a news story I read about City Council considering a proposal that would see an adjustment to the Fire Fighting payment structure for the citizens of Edmonton. The proposal is to be discussed at the Sept 1, 2011 Utility Council meeting as agenda item 6.2 – 2012 Operating Budget Guidelines – Public Fire Protection Water Services Update – Proposed Amendment to Proposed Bylaw 15816. I am against this proposal and believe the cost of Fire Fighting services should remain – rightly – covered by property taxes and included in the City’s annual budget.  

The citizens of Edmonton experienced a similar situation of service fee offloading when the City decided that Epcor would charge a monthly Waste Management Fee ($29.95+GST). What resulted was a $377 increase to household expenses due to no reduction in property taxes to cover off the new user fee. I fear the proposal in front of the Utility Committee will result in the same outcome: a net increase in household expenses. While $29 per year per household may seem trivial, this is simply a tax increase by a different name.

What I’d like to see instead is City Council take more care, consideration, and accountability for its budget and spend decisions. Recently the City recognized a $12M savings on construction projects and rolled that money straight into 21 additional road projects. While that money is undoubtedly going to worthwhile projects, I find it hard to believe that no one had the foresight to set aside $1.3M (a mere 11% of that savings) to cover the Fire Fighting cost increase. As a result, the City must now be accountable for the outcomes of its decision: there will be an increase to a cost of services and the City will have to be more selective on how and where it spends its citizens’ money in 2012.

Thank you for your time,

Matt

2 thoughts on “Proposed Fire Fighting Payment Structure

  • Simon Timms

    The whole concept of property tax is silly. Why should I be punished because my property increases in value? Tax based on actual cost of services, if you live far from the water supply or the garbage dump then that service should cost you more as it costs more to deliver it. This has the added bonus of discouraging urban sprawl.

  • wastedgenius

    I agree that the property value measurement is flawed in determining one’s tax burden and I see the logic in your argument that people should pay for what they use and, if it costs more to deliver that service, their bill should be higher. It starts to fall apart for me when city-wide services that are for the benefit of everyone (e.g. roads, police and fire service, parks, festivals, and public transit) come into play. Residents near a highly-traveled road (e.g. Deerfoot or Whitemud) shouldn’t be forced to shoulder the maintenance cost of that road considering people from all over the city use it. Similarly, residents of a new neighbourhood shouldn’t have to be the only ones to pay to build a new police/fire station in their area when a city expands because the city’s population has grown beyond its current boundaries. While property taxes are certainly not the best solution, I think it would take a lot of effort to find one that was equitable and still maintain the flow of money into the City’s coffers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *