Markham top Ontario city for budgeting, transparency

The City of Markham has earned an A- in the C.D. Howe Institute’s annual report card on municipal budgeting, financial reporting and fiscal transparency.

“Once again, the City of Markham has scored very high marks and achieved the top ranking amongst Ontario municipalities. We continue to deliver exceptional services to residents while keeping taxes low,” says Mayor Frank Scarpitti.

“Markham maintains the lowest 17-year average property tax increase in the Greater Toronto Area and the 2022 property tax rate increase was well below the rate of inflation,” he adds.

In December, City Council approved a $533.7-million budget that represents a 1.95 per cent tax hike. The annual pace of inflation climbed in December to 4.8 per cent, a 30-year high.

The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose work focuses on economic policy intelligence and research.

“The budgets governments present around the beginning of their fiscal years and the financial statements they publish in their annual reports after their fiscal years have ended are critical tools for legislators and voters to hold them accountable,” it says in its Solving the Municipal Budget Mystery: Fiscal Accountability in Canada’s Cities, 2021 report card.

“The transparency of these documents to non-experts has always mattered: they should let readers understand governments’ plans, see how results differed from these plans and assess governments’ future capacity to deliver services. The fiscal stresses of the COVID-19 crisis will make these attributes even more critical in the years ahead. This report assesses the quality of the budgets and annual reports of 31 major Canadian municipalities according to their usefulness for these purposes.”

The report card grades municipalities on the clarity, comprehensiveness and timeliness of their financial presentations. It uses 12 different criteria score municipalities’ most recent budgets and financial statements and delivers grades that range from A to F.

“At the top is Vancouver, whose documents earn an A+ for their clarity, completeness and promptness. Surrey and Quebec City, each with an A, and Markham, Richmond and Vaughan, each with an A-, also stand out favourably,” the Institute says.

Regina and Saskatoon, both in Saskatchewan, landed at the bottom of the list.

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