The dust has settled after the City of Saskatoon deliberated over its budget for the next two years, but how are businesses and residents feeling about a 6.04-per cent property tax increase next year, with a 5.64-per cent increase in 2025?
“When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority,” said Keith Moen, executive director of the North Saskatoon Business Association (NSBA).
He said there were some councillors who refused to make some hard cuts over the four days of deliberation last week.
Moen also said the budget deliberation process was flawed.
“They tend to be debating over the nickel and dime budget items whereas the multi-million dollar items, the big ticket ones that seem to be overlooked or rubber-stamped as passed,” Moen said.
He said that it seemed like they didn’t give much consideration to the bigger items.
Moen said the city did reduce the property tax increase from the initial 17 per cent they were faced with in the summer, but they were still expecting more reductions.
He also noted that a lot of items were deferred to get to that 6.04-per cent mark and there should have been more things that were cut altogether, adding that pushing these deferrals just creates more problems down the line.
“We’re certainly kicking the can down the road and there’s going to be a higher price to be paid down the road.”
He said this property tax increase could lead to more closures of small businesses, saying many are facing tough decisions right now.
City council played with the idea of adjusting the property tax ratio in Saskatoon during deliberations, with Coun. Mairin Loewen putting forward a motion to change the ratio to 1.75 from 1.59, which was defeated.
According to the city’s chief financial officer, Clae Hack, if the motion passed residential property owners would see an average of a 2.01-per cent decrease in property taxes where commercial property owners would see an increase of 4.23 per cent on top of the already-established property tax increases.
Through one of the general reports, it was noted that Saskatoon has low business property tax comparative to the rest of the country.
Moen said there was a lack of due process with that suggestion, saying there is room for debate around the property tax ratio, but the proposal at council had no room for that discussion.
He suggested the 1.59 rate currently in Saskatoon for the property tax ratio could be lower, saying people live here for the jobs and opportunity.
Global News asked residents how they felt about the property tax increases, many of whom did not know about the increases.
Mehta Youngs said he wasn’t a property owner, but said that could result in possible rent hikes.
“Although my landlord hasn’t increased my rent in 10 years despite similar property tax increases, that is a significant one though,” Youngs said.
He said he can see why that increase would be a concern for property owners in Saskatoon.
Andre Lacroix came from Calgary, noting rent is considerably better in Saskatoon, but said costs, not just property taxes, are increasing everywhere.
“Nobody likes tax hikes and I guess it’s necessary given their budget,” Marc Senkiw said.
Jason Aebig, CEO of the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, said this budget process was a marathon.
He said he was hoping council could get a little bit closer to the 20-year average for property tax increases, somewhere in the ballpark of a four-per cent increase.
“It looked like they were on that path to do it until the final hour, and then they added 13 items back to the budget and the rate ticked back up,” Aebig said.
He wished the city would have dug deeper rather than asking residents and business owners to dig deeper.
Aebig said watching budget deliberations could get very frustrating for business owners, saying local government is one of the few places where you get to see how the sausage is made, adding that we’re often shielded from that with provincial or federal governments.
He said while a lot of the spotlight was on the property tax, residents and business owners will be contending with utility rates as well.
“The fact of the matter is, it’s going to cost a good deal more to do business in this city.”