Candidate signatures appear on tax reduction pledge

Candidate signatures appear on tax reduction pledge
Candidate Pat Clarke signs a document pledging to find tax reductions if he is elected.

CORNWALL, Ontario – A number of city council candidates have signed a document that pledges a search for tax reductions in the coming term of council.

Nine candidates met at the Benson Centre Tuesday night to hear a presentation from members of the Community Action Group – a collection of local business people who have advocated for responsible spending at city hall and this election wants candidates to pledge to curb tax rates to the best of their ability.

The group plans on publishing just who has, and has not, signed the documentation in advance of the Oct. 27 election.

The candidates got an earful from CAG members who suggest it costs too much to live in Cornwall compared to other communities.

“All the number are well above inflation,” said CAG member Sandy Cameron, attacking a key plank the city has used to justify tax increases: that hikes have kept pace with, or been below the inflation rate.

Cameron pointed to an assessment hike last year (4.5 per cent), a tax rate decrease (3.2 per cent) and a levy increase (2.7 per cent) that he suggested has equated to more money leaving the pockets of Cornwall taxpayers – an average increase of around four per cent, per household.

“We’re not here to lie and tell fibs,” said Cameron. “We’re here with real numbers.”

Cameron, a local real estate broker, suggested homeowners are finding it too difficult to stay in their homes because of the rising cost of living.

It was a sentiment echoed by candidates who are hearing the same thing.

“I have a lot of friends who have moved out of town because it is cheaper,” said Pat Clarke, a candidate for councillor. 

Gary Samler added: “Some of my friends who are homeowners are fed up and want to move out.”

Of the nine candidates who met Tuesday night, there were no incumbents – all of whom were presumably taking part in an in-camera city council meeting at the time.

Cameron said he plans to make 15,000 copies of the document that was signed by some candidates Tuesday night, to educate the public on who added their name in support.

“It will say ‘Does not agree’ for those who don’t sign,” he said. “And that’s great. That’s what being in democracy is all about.”

CAG has circulated documentation that suggests the tax burden in places like South Stormont and South Glengarry is much less than Cornwall. The owner of a home assessed at $185,000 in Cornwall paid $3,082 in taxes this year.

In South Glengarry it was just $2,409 and South Stormont $2,274.

“(My taxes) have gone up every year since 2007,” said candidate Mike O’Neil, adding his water/sewer bill has jumped by as much as 30 per cent over the same amount of time. “If people pull out their tax bills…it’s an increase.”

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