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Municipal Discounts

The City is reviewing discounted fees for municipal programs and services to explore options to eliminate age-based discounted fees and implement only income-based discounts for municipal programs and services. Moving to solely income-based discounts aims to address affordability and to ensure those in the community living in lower-income households have the ability to access programs and services. Learn more, watch this video.

Goals of the proposed changes to discount program:

  1. Increase access to discounts for those living in poverty in the community
  2. Target discounts to those in greatest financial need in the community
  3. Make the discounts easier to accessContinue reading

The City is reviewing discounted fees for municipal programs and services to explore options to eliminate age-based discounted fees and implement only income-based discounts for municipal programs and services. Moving to solely income-based discounts aims to address affordability and to ensure those in the community living in lower-income households have the ability to access programs and services. Learn more, watch this video.

Goals of the proposed changes to discount program:

  1. Increase access to discounts for those living in poverty in the community
  2. Target discounts to those in greatest financial need in the community
  3. Make the discounts easier to access while ensuring accountability
  4. Lessen the financial impact of the aging population on municipal taxpayers

City staff has put together proposed changes that would allow the City to focus on expanding income-based discounts. The City is seeking public input on how best to implement the income-based discount model, specifically:

  • What household income level should make a resident eligible to receive discounted fees for municipal programs and services?
  • How do we make the process to receive the discounts user-friendly?

To learn more about income-based discounts currently provided visit the Municipal Fee Assistance Program page.

Have a question regarding the municipal discounts? Please submit it using the box below.


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  • What are the SMART goals for this program? The goals stated are not -Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic (maybe) or Timely. How is this program part of an anti poverty program for the city? It appears that the city wants to control how a poor person spends this subsidy ($300 could be used for food and shelter) instead of giving power to the individual to decide. Is age now being used against people -is this negative ageism?

    Mike Gurnick asked 17 days ago

    Thank you for question and comments.   The success of our current program for low income residents is measured annually by reviewing the number who could qualify based on taxfiler data, the number that apply and the number who utilize their discounts for Transit, Recreation and Culture.  The proposal being considered is not suggesting providing a "subsidy" but expanding the  discount program for some municipal program and services for low income households. 

  • why are there no dates for the focus groups - it is hard to chose a time without knowing the days.

    Mike Gurnick asked 17 days ago

    Thank you for the question.  Focus group dates and time have not been finalized.  They are being arranged based on the number of residents who wish to take part and what time of day is most convenient.  These will be finalized in the next week or two and those who have put their name forward will be contacted with further details.  

  • Like most projects in the city - the goals are established by the city before public engagement. I suggest that the public be engaged to help set the goals.

    Mike Gurnick asked 17 days ago

    Thank you for your comments.  

  • How will you check for income level?

    lejea2 asked 16 days ago

    Thank you for your question. Currently, individuals can use a number of different government documents including their most recent Notice of Assessment or Child Tax Benefit notice to show their net income.  While this is currently checked annually, one of the proposals is to extend the eligibility check to every two years or longer. 

  • if Household income is to be the measure -then why does the survey contain additional information about each person?

    Mike Gurnick asked 17 days ago

    Thank you for your question.  You are correct that net income and residency in Kingston are the proposed determining factors for access to discounts.   The descriptions in the survey are there for context to provide some samples of situations that can be found in our community.  

  • Given your responses to the comments, it sounds like the City's decision has already made and that you are trying to convince people of the merits of removing senior discounts. I am a low income, middle aged person who might benefit from a subsidy, and I do not agree - at all - in removing seniors discounts. Surely the City can find other ways to reduce expenditures. Have a look at KEDCO. You can easily reduce their funding by $300 000. I'm sure there are other areas where you can cut back as well. It would be nice if you could provide subsidy's to all persons on a low income, as well as to seniors. It doesn't have to be either/or. Eliminating unnecessary spending - is the first step - not cutting services.

    Heather38 asked 16 days ago

    Thank you for your comments.  To clarify, no decision has been made.  Comments raised through the public engagement process will be received by Council in the new year and then they will determine whether to change the policy and program. 

  • The stated goal of “lessening the financial impact of an aging population on municipal taxpayers” begs significant question. I need to see a report that articulates how an aging population becomes more of a financial burden on municipal taxpayers. This aging population helps support the local economy - retail, groceries, restaurants, etc. I don’t know the numbers, but many pay property taxes as well. I would also like to see any study that predicts how many seniors would stop being active if supports are eliminated, and the impact on our health care system. Targeting seniors as a “financial impact”(and therefore burden) is wrong for a variety of reasons.

    Grinchimus asked 20 days ago

    Thank you for you comments.  Please read the report from April found in document library on the home page for this project.  Specifically you might be interested in the appended document from Professor Harry Kitchen.  

  • Please do not take the seniors discount away. It is very degrading to have to show anyone that I qualify for discounts. I would have to drop any exercising and stuff that I am doing to improve my health as I would feel too disrespected and degraded to have to show anyone my financial situation. That is private information and NO MATTER the benefits - I would too ashamed to show this to anyone. Thanks for reading.

    lucydyment asked 20 days ago

    Thank you for you comments.

  • You indicate below that the savings will be about $140,000 per year and will be managed by existing staff so will not have associated expenses. First, 140k seems like a tiny amount - a token really of appreciation to long standing members of our communities. This should not be about income at all but rather about recognizing the status and contributions of our seniors to society. Does this not seem like nickle and diming the people who volunteer at our hospitals, churches and soup kitchens? Seems a bit disrespectful and shameful. In reference to the cost to run the program, you seem to state that there will be none. Can you better outline the cost vs gains? Including the initial costs to set up the online application, there is also a cost to processing the each application even if done by existing staff. When does the program break even? What is the impact on the workloads of this staff and to the resulting wait for services? All for $140,000...

    Pat stanton asked 21 days ago

    Thank you for your comment and questions.  Yes, if the aged-based program is stopped and the resources redirected toward and expanded and more accessible low income discount program it is expected to have no negative impact on the budget.  The current costs of the age-based discounts is approximately $140,000 but this amount is expected to double as the population ages over the next decade.  

  • I appreciate the arguements made about ensuring that those in need receive discounts but I can't help but believe that this change is really about saving money not enhancing service to those in need. I would like to see a side by side comparisons of the " discounts". There are many ways for the city to save money.

    Geoffco asked 22 days ago

    Thank you for your comments.  I would encourage you, if you haven't done so already to read the report from April of 2017 that contains some of the cost information.  The age-based discounts currently cost about $140,000 but this is expected to more than double as the "baby boomers" age. What is being proposed is to redirect the "savings" from provision of age-based discounts to provide discounts to more low income adults across all age groups.  It is anticipated that this change over the next decade will cover the cost of the program expansion and the planned improvements to make it more accessible such as an online application process.    

  • What impact will removing subsidies for young adults (18 - 24) have on future usage of programs? One of the benefits of subsidizing access to service for young adults is that they are aware they exist and can understand their benefits. Will removing these subsidies result in a knock-on effect in future years in which those more able to afford to pay fully for these services will not use them at all?

    CC asked 23 days ago

    Thank you or your question.  Approximately 25% of young adults are currently living in poverty and this group will continue to receive access to discounts.   We will be meeting with groups of young adults during this consultation process in focus groups to discuss their views on the proposed changes.

  • Due to their age and the fact that years ago many women did not work outside of the home there are many seniors that are not computer literate. Yes, there is free tuition available on computer use is available but there are many seniors who, because of various reasons, do not have access to these opportunities. This survey is not available to many seniors as a result of this! Shouldn't every senior be able to comment on this survey if they want to? What is the City of Kingston doing to make this possible?

    Linda Hart asked 25 days ago

    Thank you for your comment and question.  The online survey and other information is one component of our outreach on this issue.  Printed paper copies of the survey will be available this week at various locations throughout the City such as the Seniors Centre.  In addition, focus groups will be held over the next few weeks so that discussions can occur in person. Sign up for the focus groups can be done by contacting Cheryl Hitchen by phone at 613-546-2695 x 4806 and leaving your name, phone number, postal code and your availability for a morning, afternoon or evening focus group.

  • Sophie Kiwala recently spoke at the Seniors Center saying< :"Seniors need to live safely, have better health, be in the best possible health They need to be active in their community and they need to be connected in their communities" Does our city believe in this as well? The move to take away seniors' discounts could cause people to question this. There are many seniors who, because of pride and the times they were raised in, would never consider asking for a discount for anything due to their income level. The fact that seniors’ discounts are available from the city, is making their involvement in the community more possible, and by extension, their increasing their physical, emotional and mental health. Yes, the number of seniors is rising, but a large proportion of those new seniors is still female and females, particularly single women (and many women outlive their male partners), still have lower income levels than men in their senior years. I submit that removing senior’s discounts will definitely be a factor in increased health costs experienced by seniors with lower income levels. The amount the city would save by removing seniors' discounts is not worth this cost! Would you please comment on this?

    Linda Hart asked 25 days ago

    Thank you for your comment and question.  Yes, the City believes that everyone should be active and participate in the community.  The proposal being considered is to provide low income adults in all age categories, including seniors, access to discounts so that they can participate and stay active.   In addition, we are working to make the process of "asking" for a discount as simple as possible.  

  • Of the existing municpal discounts, can you disclose the total expense (loss of revenue) for said discounts? Are you considering an increase in municipal discounts? What are the preformance measures being used to identify if the program is being utilized effectively? What would be the impact if municpal impacts were not offered?

    Love Kingston asked 28 days ago

    Thank you for your questions.  The report that went to Council in April of 2017 (which can be found on the project home page in the document library), indicated that the estimated "cost" of the age-based discounts was expected to be $140,000 for 2017 and anticipated to rise each year with the aging demographic in our community. What is being suggested in this consultation, is the elimination of the age-based discounts and increase the income threshold for the fee assistance program so that a greater number of  lower income residents can access discounts.  In terms of performance measurements, we keep data on the number of citizens who are income eligible for discounts based on Census data; the number who apply for discounts and the number who use the discounts.   This information is regularly reported to Council.  In addition, voluntary surveys are periodically conducted of those that use the program to identify improvements that could be made and these are considered in planning the program each year.  If discounts were not offered for municipal programs to low income residents, they would be required to pay the full fee for the program or service.  

  • Does this mean that City "sponsored" festivals, (such as the Kingston Canadian Film Festival), and artistic organizations, (such as the Kingston Symphony Association), which receive grants from the City of Kingston Arts Fund should also cease to offer any discounts to children, students, and seniors? It would be more "innovative" to bring in more of the homeless and impoverished families to attend their wine-and-cheese parties. When the City of Kingston spends over $100,000 from its working reserve to pay for a jazz band's entertainment during the Breakout Project, last summer, and when the tickets for participants ranged from $349 to $549, would it be wise to eliminate aged-based discounted fees, (for example, make them more "user-friendly" by asking everyone to pay $549 for their weekend ticket)? After all, the seven Breakout Project teams, (with the guidance or numerous motivational speakers and Innovate Kingston), managed to raise about $18,000 in donations during that "world-class innovation event."

    Fortean asked 28 days ago

    Thank you for your comments and question.  This process and consultation is not suggesting or recommending that any organization/agency that receives grants from the City change their policies. The focus is on the discounts to access City programs included in the Municipal Fee Assistance Program which currently are: monthly transit pass, recreation programs, "Grand Theatre Presents" productions, and vouchers toward the cost of having your pet spayed/neutered.  

  • How many people have to be hired and trained to access those that apply for discounts?

    Fred asked 28 days ago

    Thank you for your question.  If I understand your question correctly, you are asking if additional staff will be hired to assist with the application process.  The application process for the Municipal Fee Assistance Program in managed by existing City staff in the Housing and Social Services Department.  It is not anticipated that any additional staff will be required to administer the program if Council supports moving the income threshold from the "LICO" to the "LIM".   Once an online application is in place, training will be provided to community partner organizations so that they can assist their clients with completing the online application if needed.  

  • Thank you for responding to my previous question. I understand the overall logic of removing aged based discounts. What I’d hoped to find out is if any attention has been paid to the unique characteristics of the youth population that might argue against including them with seniors in removing aged based discounts. Specifically: 1. Youth’s tendency to live in households without any control of that households financial resources. 2. Youth’s lack of existing habits of accessing city services making them less likely than seniors to do so or continue to do so without a discount. 3. The advantages of encouraging youth to access city services even if they are not technically living in poverty. 4. Considerations that youth not living in poverty are still on average, unlikely to have disposable income compared to seniors.

    Poncho asked 28 days ago

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.  I would encourage you to sign up to be part of a focus group where a more fulsome discussion can take place on this topic.  There is a sign up on the bottom of the project home page.

  • With the current youth generation among the least economically secure cohort of young people in decades, why are youth aged based discount being discussed alongside the removal of aged based discounts from seniors, which as a demographic are among the most financially secure?

    Poncho asked 28 days ago

    Thank you for your question. As shown in the video on the project home page, youth continue to be a demographic with very high rates of poverty in Kingston.  All youth living in poverty, as well as others in all age groups experiencing poverty, will continue to have access to discounts for municipal programs and services. The change being proposed is to move from providing discounts solely based on a person's age (18-24 or over 65) and instead providing discounts based on income. 

  • Is the means test for discounts not becoming too intrusive? How many people do you really expect to fill in application forms vs those who will not bother and just give up? Is the real intent to reduce the number of citizens obtaining a discount ?

    John Mirski asked 28 days ago

    Thank you for your question.  As noted in the video on the project home page, the goals of the proposed changes are to increase participation and the number of low income residents accessing discounts by simplifying the application process and making it more accessible.  To qualify applicants need to verify their after tax income and residency within the City of Kingston.  Under the current "My Kingston" program, approximately 3300 residents access discounts annually and this number is expected to rise with the proposed changes.

  • I don't think there is a one-size fits all household income level that would make sense. How best do we measure poverty in order to assess an individual's or family's need for municipal discounts? Being a recipient of social assistance is one easy metric, but what about working poor? How do we improve access for so-called middle-class families (by income), but with multiple children, or significant health-care expenses, or with other care-taking responsibilities? I note that seniors discounts are applied based on age and do not take into account available resources, although we know there are many wealthy seniors in K'ton who don't need a subsidy for access to municipal services. This should probably stop. There may be a hint in the literature on deprivation indices (as opposed to solely income-based poverty measures such as LICO or LIM).

    Susan B asked 28 days ago

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 

    The rationale behind moving from the LICO to the LIM as the income threshold for this program is to capture more individuals and families who are not on social assistance but fall within the category of low income and "working poor".  The video posted on the project page has some charts that show the impact of the change from LICO to LIM on the numbers who will now be eligible. 

    With respect to the reason that only after tax income is used and not other expense considerations, I direct you to the Frequently Asked Questions document in the document library on the right hand of the main project page  It explains the rationale for this:

    8.  Why is the City simply looking at income levels to determine eligibility? Aren’t there other things that can affect whether a program is affordable?

    Absolutely, income is only one aspect of affordability. However, MFAP was set up to have an intake process that was straight forward and took a “one window” approach. This means that those applying only need to share their income information once annually to be deemed eligible for discounts for a range of City programs and services. Implementing a more complex system of “means testing” and looking at someone’s expenses as well as their income would be more time consuming and require more documentation. All levels of government are moving toward simplifying application processes and using strictly income tax information to assess eligibility.