FIRE DEPARTMENT SERVICES - AREA RATING
Read about how changes to Area Rating for 'Fire Department Services' affect your 2023 residential property taxes
Changes to Area Rating for 'Fire Department Services'
The previous term of Council initiated a review process for the area rating of 'Fire Department Services' because the tax levied on residents did not match the service they were receiving. Generally speaking, but with some exceptions, rural residents have been overpaying, and urban residents have been underpaying for the level of service they receive. (See below for a definition of area rating)
This term of Council has approved the staff recommendation to adjust the 'Fire' portion of property taxes so that each resident is paying for the service they receive (not more and not less). There is no change to service level you can expect from the Fire Department. This change is simply about matching the taxes paid to existing levels of service.
How does 'service level' from the Fire Department vary across the City and what is changing?
There are three levels of 'Fire' service across Hamilton:
Full-time - Area is serviced by full-time firefighters. (Generally urban areas)
Composite - Area is serviced by a mix of volunteer and full-time firefighters
Volunteer - Area is service with an initial response by volunteer firefighters. Full-time firefighters deployed if needed. (Generally rural areas)
Service provided by the fire department is not changing in any part of the City. The only thing changing is the allocation of the cost to ensure fairness based on the level of service received.
Previously, area rating for Fire was determined by the urban or rural status of each residential property. There were two problems with this approach:
There are three levels of service from the Fire Department and they do not match up with a simple urban/rural boundary.
The composite service level was not considered in the previous approach
What is area rating?
Area rating is a municipal property taxation policy tool permitted by the Provincial Government (Ontario Regulation 585/06), intended to account for either significant differences in service levels or differences in the cost of providing services across different parts of the City. Where applied, properties with the same assessment but different service levels are taxed differently.
Was there public consultation about this decision?
Yes. Staff completed public engagement requesting feedback on three options:
Implement three different rates (matching the service provided)
One rate for the entire City
Option #1 had the most favourable response. This option was recommended by staff to be phased in over two years. Council approved the recommendation.
And to reiterate, there are no changes to the level of service you will receive from Hamilton Fire Services. There is no change to how the Fire Department will respond to calls as this was solely a financial matter to apportion costs fairly.
The following table and maps will help you determine the impact on your residential property taxes. They are colour-coded so you can find your location on the map and reference the table. Yellow is full-time service, green is composite, and orange is volunteer.