Myles Russell on Tax

Happy City: The Council recently raised its mil rate, which has spurred some public opposition. However, this increase will not be enough to cover the increased costs the City faces from inflation, and major infrastructure expenditures that we know are required in the near future. In addition, many residents want the City to provide more and better services. 

The City has to balance its budget, and there is clearly a tradeoff between the priorities of maintaining affordable tax rates and maintaining and improving public services. What values will guide how you balance taxation and spending? If you would not raise taxes, what existing services would you be willing to reduce or eliminate to support your priorities?

Myles Russell:

There is a single guiding principle which is paramount to a cities function: that is  to increase revenue without increasing expenditures. The only way to do that  without raising taxes is to increase land value. The best method of raising land value is  increasing density. I have spoken with developers who own large swaths of the city  and they wish to remove parking to put up housing and the city prevents them. The city  too often puts the burden of municipal infrastructure on to developers when the existing  infrastructure works. 

I’ve read lots of work from Strong Towns, and Urban3. I’ve used that framework to start the assessment of land value per service metre, as per area is only relevant when  looking at land value and acquisition. 

I’ve spoken to hundreds of residents and have been asked many times what density  means to me. I make it clear that I do not want to put ten story apartment buildings next to a single detached home. We could increase density simply by allowing the  development of town houses and multiplex units in with single detached homes. if we  can increase density by a factor of 1.5 to 2 with simple development regulation changes, then we should. 

The city’s housing needs assessment is clear that we are missing small footprint  dwelling units from bachelor to two-bedroom, and that these units inherently are higher  density when built in row house and multiplex structures. These types of structures  would increase the city’s revenue at no cost to itself if it simply made the regulations  less restrictive. However, development regulations currently prohibit this. To increase  revenue, we MUST develop infill and denser. Sprawl does not help lower taxes. 

I find it’s very difficult to talk about any single topic as they’re all interrelated. My apologies.

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