BY LACHMAN BALANI
At Brampton’s council meeting in late March, most councilors voted in favour of deferring property tax payments for five months (and less for those with preauthorized payments) until Aug. 19, 2020. However this has not gone down well with numerous residents who have nicknamed it the “Starbucks relief.” Many Brampton residents who live in older dwellings claim that their monthly property taxes are in the $400 range per month. If they were to defer these payments, they are still required to cough up all the arrears of five months before Aug. 19; otherwise, the city will start charging them 1.25 per cent in penalties and arrears, which on a $400 monthly bill amounts to five bucks ($5) or the popular moniker for a Starbucks coffee. In other words, the City of Brampton is basically saying it just isn’t worth it to defer your tax payments, so keep on paying.
On a popular Facebook page called Brampton Beats, where you and several councilors are contributors, a former mayoral candidate has expressed his opinion that the city can do more and should do so. The other main complaint is that if residents are unable to pay the property tax for five months, from where will they conjure up the money to pay it all on the “judgement day” of Aug. 19? For sure, they are looking at paying interest and penalties on overdue payments. One of the more popular suggestions from residents is that they be given a holiday from paying the property taxes until August.
Whether that is feasible economically or not would be for the city to determine. The other popular suggestion is that after five months, Brampton should give the residents two or more years to catch up on the arrears without penalties or interest. As many have pointed out, it is easier for municipalities to bear an increase in their debt than it is for individuals who already are deeply indebted up to 170 per cent or more of their income, as per official figures. Going a bit further, several accountants have even looked at the 2020 budget and seen that the total property tax collection including residential and commercial for 2020 will be approximately $502 million.
Giving a tax holiday for five months would result in a hefty $209 million pardon, which may or may not be palatable to the municipality. The accountants go on to claim that this $209 million deficit is less than the capital allotment of $222 million in the budget, and seeing as how the budget was envisioned with 2040 in mind, well, why not push it to 2041 – just one more year? The second more feasible option is to pardon the 1.25 per cent in penalties and fees on $209 million, which amounts to $2.6 million, which will probably reduce the yearly surplus (there was one of $25 million in 2018, as mentioned several times). As per the 2020 budget, there seems to be a surplus of more than $10 million last year, as only 2019 estimates are given. Hopefully, Mayor Brown, you and your team can do more than just give a Starbucks relief, something which would be more in line with all the fantastic work you have all done so far