August 1, 2018 7:41 pm

Regina daycares seek tax exemption amid potential policy changes

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After a dozen impassioned speeches and critiques from not-for-profits across Regina, the city’s executive committee has resolved not to go ahead with a new tax incentive policy.

“We believe the proposed policy fails on all accounts. It’s neither fair, in line with the [Design Regina: Official Community Plan] and finally will place undue burden on property taxpayers,” Bob Perry, a past president of the MacKenzie Art Gallery Board of Trustees told the executive committee.

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The policy would have limited the amount of money the city could allocate for non-profit tax exemptions.

In 2018 that number was over $1.2 million.

READ MORE: City of Regina proposes 4.86 per cent mill rate increase

Ron Hitchcock, the curator of the Royal Canadian Legion Museum, said the loss of the property tax exemption would leave them with “little recourse but to close our doors.”

“If we close our doors, Nov. 11 will be a totally different picture. There may or may not be poppies for sale in the city, the cenotaph and Victoria Park will be silent on the 11th, and the Brandt Centre will be vacant,” Hitchcock stated flatly.

Among the groups lobbying against changes to the policy they currently use, was another group; one hoping discussion of the policy would be a stepping stone to launch themselves into the conversation.

“It is frustrating. Cathedral is just a few blocks down and there are four daycare centres around us that don’t pay anything and we’re the ones being taxed like Walmart,” Colleen Schmidt, a board member for Cathedral Area Co-Operative Daycare said.

Despite being classified as not-for-profits, 25 of the city’s licensed daycares pay commercial property tax – a combined $130,000 a year.

READ MORE: Regina daycares struggle to cover tax hike

Daycares aren’t covered under the official community plan – which covers sport, culture, recreation, arts and heritage, hunger and food security, public safety and public libraries among others.

“When our taxes were increased in 2015 our fees went up $25 a month on all our spaces. If we were successful in trying to get an exemption it would invest $146 for every daycare space in the city per year,” Schmidt explained.

In 2015, licensed daycares in the city, that were not in tax exempt properties like schools or the YMCA/YWCA, went from paying residential taxes to commercial taxes. For Cathedral Area Co-Operative Daycare, their costs jumped from just over $3,000 to over $7,000.

“As daycares, we really only have two sources of revenue. One is the provincial government funding, the other is parent fees. If the province doesn’t increase our [funding] to cover the tax, the parents have to do it,” Schmidt said.

Under the proposed policy, daycares wouldn’t be eligible for the exemptions. It’s a decision the city will look at before bringing the policy back to council.

“We will review and go out and do our public consultation, and go back to council with our findings from the public consultation,” said Deborah Bryden, assessment and taxation director for the City of Regina.

Consultations will take place over the course of the next six months.

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