North

Yellowknife's new hospital helped keep your property taxes down in 2019, mayor says

The impact of the new Stanton Territorial Hospital on Yellowknife residents’ property tax bills was largely felt in 2019 and not 2020, the city’s mayor confirmed Tuesday.

Taxes on new $350-million hospital were in city's budgeting last year, so don't expect a 2020 decrease

Though the N.W.T. government had to pass an additional spending measure in December 2019 to account for property taxes associated with the new Stanton Territorial Hospital, Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty confirmed the City of Yellowknife has been including it in their budgeting all along. (Walter Strong/CBC)

The impact of the new Stanton Territorial Hospital on Yellowknife residents' property tax bills was largely felt in 2019 and not 2020, the city's mayor confirmed Tuesday.

Earlier this week, CBC reported that previously unbudgeted property tax payments for the N.W.T. government's new hospital, which became operational in May 2019, would cost the territory $140 million over the lifetime of the building

In 2020, those payments are expected to cost $4.5 million — up from $770,000 in 2016, before the new hospital was built.

The revelation prompted the question of how adding the hospital's new cost to the city's property assessment base would impact residents for the upcoming tax year.

The city felt the hospital's impact on its tax base last year, Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty said. That means residents should not expect to see a hospital-related change to their bill in 2020.

Alty said that the hospital's impacts on the city's property tax base was first felt last year, and was a major factor in the city being able to keep tax increases low without further cuts. (Katie Toth/CBC News)

In its 2019 budget, Yellowknife city council approved a 1.44 per cent property tax increase, and, in 2020, 1.63 per cent.

Those numbers both incorporated the value of the new hospital and its impact on property taxes, Alty confirmed.

"When we've been doing our budgeting, we've always included the hospital in it," she said. "So if the hospital hadn't come online, people would have seen bigger tax increases or we would have had to do more cuts to get just the one per cent tax increases."

Impact of hospital on tax base difficult to nail down

In 2019, mill rates — the rate at which different classes of property are taxed in the city — decreased across the board in Yellowknife. 

Though the exact impact of the hospital on the decrease is difficult to peg due to it also being a general assessment year — meaning property values across the city jumped — Alty confirmed that the addition of the $350-million building to the assessment base would have had a measurable impact.

"The general assessment, there was an overall increase in the city's total assessment base … meaning the mill rates didn't have to be as high to generate the required property tax revenues," she said. "The mill rates decreasing wasn't really the hospital."

According to a presentation prepared by the City of Yellowknife in April 2019, the "Commercial/Industrial - GNWT" assessment base, or the value of property classified as such in the city, jumped 94.97 per cent from 2018 to 2019, a number Alty says reflects the new hospital.

For comparison, the city's residential assessment base went up 17.37 per cent after the general assessment.

The document also states that residents took on 41.26 per cent of the city's tax burden, down from 45.26 per cent in 2018.

"The portion of the pie [that residents have to pay] shrinks," she said. 

"But [we just want] to make sure residents don't think their property taxes are going down."

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