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Sam Katz fudged the truth when comparing Winnipeg property taxes to other cities

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz had to do some big-time fudging of the facts to sell his runaway property taxes to the public.

His latest budget calls for a 3.87 percent increase in taxes, and a promise to keep raising taxes for the indefinite future. So what, says Katz, the City of Winnipeg still has the lowest municipal property taxes among major Canadian cities.

In fact, those are the exact words used in a wraparound Winnipeg Budget supplement carried by all the city's weekly newspapers, just immediately above a photo of Mayor Sam grinning from ear to ear, and beside a bar graph allegedly comparing taxes in Canada's major cities.

You will note we used the word 'allegedly'.

Memo to the Mayor: did you really think we wouldn't check?

The Mayor's PR blitz cites the source of the comparative taxes paid in cities from coast to coast as "City of Calgary 2011 Residential Property Taxes & Utility Charges Survey", released November 2012.

First, he changed the "municipal property taxes per average house" paid in Calgary and Regina to show they are higher than Winnipeg, when the survey shows them as lower. We checked.

Then he dropped five cities from the 12-city survey (Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, St. John's, Leduc, and Spruce Grove) and replaced them with three cities that weren't surveyed (Edmonton, Hamilton and Ottawa) but which he claimed had higher taxes than we do.

Yeah, like we're going to trust figures provided by the mayor or his right-hand man, city CAO Phil Sheegl, the pair who can't even tell us how much over budget a new firehall being built by their pal Sandy Shindleman in St. James will be.

It's full of bar graphs and tables. There's the comparison of Total Property Tax for a Representative Single Family House in 2011 (city taxes plus school taxes) which shows a Winnipeg homeowner paid the fourth highest taxes in the country ($2965) after Toronto ($2993), Victoria ($3387) and Vancouver ($4039).
We dropped to ninth highest when the comparison was on property taxes alone. But here's where Katz's figures get fishy.

Katz's bar graph and the graph in the Calgary survey both have a Winnipeg taxpayer forking over $1,429 on the average house.

But Katz has Calgary taxes at $1,480; the Calgary survey has them at $1,347.
And Katz has Regina taxes at $1,519 while the Calgary survey has them at $1,369.

When comparing property taxes plus provincial homeowner grants or credits (Winnipeg, $700), we fare well, ranking third lowest in the country among cities surveyed by Calgary.

But compare taxes plus utilities and we're third again, third highest in big-city Canada.

Conclusion: the Mayor of Winnipeg jacked up property taxes then used fake figures and bogus graphs to try and con homeowners into believing he's still providing the lowest municipal taxes in the country.

He should tax credibility. He wouldn't have to pay a penny.

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