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Jim Reiter, the minister of government relations, says some property taxpayers in the commercial and industrial class are paying excessive tax. (CBC)

The government of Saskatchewan is taking action to stop a few rural municipalities from charging what it calls "excessive" amounts to commercial and industrial taxpayers.

Jim Reiter, the minister of government relations, says a handful of RMs are not being fair to commercial and industrial property owners.

For instance, he said, one RM in west-central Saskatchewan was charging agricultural property owners very little.

"My officials tell me that two years ago the agriculture levy for the entire rural municipality — the entire municipality, not one person — was $1,600," he said.

Meanwhile, the tax burden for commercial and industrial taxpayers was much higher.

The province's solution is to put controls on mill rate factors — which municipalities use to adjust the tax burden on some classes of taxpayers relative to others.

Under the provincial plan, a temporary measure until a permanent policy is hammered out, the ratio of one mill rate factor to another (within a municipality) will be capped at 15.

The change won't affect education taxes and it won't affect cities, because mill rate factor ratios there are already well under 15.

Reiter says it's all about fairness. He says some businesses can't just pick up and move if they don't like a certain RM's tax policy, and end up paying "excessive" tax.

In this case, for instance, one of the companies paying very high taxes owns a pipeline that runs through the municipality.

"We need to make sure that there's a balance out there and that everyone — residential, agriculture and business — are all treated fairly," he said.