Daycares in Regina say they’re struggling to keep up with rising taxes.
Hasanthi Galhenage, Cathedral Area Cooperative Daycare’s executive director, said her centre has to shell out thousands of extra dollars after the city raised property taxes.
“That is the money that we have to use for other areas like you know toys, buying furniture, food and staff wages,” she said. “And because of government budget cuts, we don’t get a lot of grants anymore, so it is very difficult.”
Galhenage said the daycare will have to increase its fees, which will hurt parents.
Twenty-one of Regina’s licensed non-profit child-care centres are asking city council for a property tax exemption.
“Property tax exemptions are a tool at the disposal of city council, and that tool needs to be used to promote growth in a strategic area,” Colleen Schmidt, Cathedral-Area Cooperative Daycare board member, said.
“Child care is something the city desperately needs, but it’s also strategic for the city. It encourages young families to stay here. It encourages work force participation,” she said. “It encourages businesses to come here because the workforce has reliable child care.”
Schmidt says the municipal portion of the property taxes for all 21 daycares works out to roughly $120,000.
“I mean that is a spit in the bucket in the city’s hundreds of millions of dollar budget,” she said. “But yet it’s enormously important in the daycare world. It represents about $150 every year for every kid in a commercially-taxed space.”
Schmidt says the national average for access to regulated child care is 24 per cent. Saskatchewan sits at 12 per cent. Regina is slightly lower.
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“We’re a Canadian embarrassment in Saskatchewan. Ninety per cent of kids in Regina don’t even have a shot at licensed child care. We are last in Canada,” Schmidt said.
“Daycares are largely tax exempt in Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick,” she added.
Schmidt said it’s also not fair that daycares based in schools aren’t facing the same property taxes.
“What we need is to have all of them in a tax-exempt facility. In that sense, it’s not such a big request to city council because we’re really just kind of bringing parity across the daycare sector,” Schmidt said.
“As much as it’s a fairness issue, it’s a policy issue. The reason daycare isn’t growing better, the reason we’re so far behind in this province is because we’ve got some pretty draconian government policies,” she said. “If we remove some of these systemic barriers, daycare can take off and grow on its own.”
In a written statement, the city said it will review the request from the daycares.
“The city is currently reviewing policy on non-profit exemptions and a report will go to Council in the new year,” Deborah Bryden, City of Regina’s assessment and taxation department director, said.