Sask. tax hikes abound for 2018
Proposed rate increases range from 1.5 per cent in Prince Albert to 13.14 per cent in Swift Current
Residents of towns and cities across Saskatchewan will likely be facing bigger property tax bills in 2018.
One of the major factors driving the increases are cuts to provincial grants-in-lieu paid by Crown orporations to municipalities in the place of taxes, says Regina city councillor Bob Hawkins..
Hawkins, a director with the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA), says that inflation, the increase in PST and the need to replace and maintain infrastructure are also driving property tax rate increases in the province.
"Just like a homeowner buying groceries, when prices rise every year it has to be covered — and the only way the city can do that is through property tax increases," said Hawkins.
The proposed tax rate hikes vary, with Prince Albert looking at a 1.5-per-cent increase, Moose Jaw eyeing a four-per-cent increase and Saskatoon considering a 4.7-per-cent hike.
The biggest hike could be felt by Swift Current residents, who face a 13.14-per-cent jump in property taxes — which works out to about $16.25 a month for an average household. In its budget, the city noted it has to make up $1.12 million in its operating budget, the majority of which comes from a drop in provincial revenue, to maintain current service levels.
"The smaller communities have all had their revenues cut — and cut seriously," noted Hawkins.
Regina faces $16M budget hole
Regina has also felt the heat. This year, the effect of provincial cuts and rising costs has led to a $16-million hole in the city's budget, he said.
Proposed rate hikes for 2018 will be introduced by the end of January, but Regina city councillors will be reasonable about balancing the need for hikes with people's personal circumstances, said Hawkins.
"Council understands there are people — particularly senior citizens, but other people on fixed incomes and low incomes — who have trouble making ends meet in their household budget and they can't afford a serious tax increase that will put them out of their homes."
We're getting more and more efficient at providing those services all the time, but we do need to make up revenue that we've lost from the province. That's the dilemma we face.- Bob Hawkins, Regina city councillor
Towns and cities provide costly but essential services, such as water, sewer, roads, police services and more, said Hawkins.
"We're getting more and more efficient at providing those services all the time, but we do need to make up revenue that we've lost from the province. That's the dilemma we face."
The province is still reviewing its grants-in-lieu program and has made no decision about its future, according to Jay Teneycke, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Government Relations.
Record-low resource prices in the past four years have had an "unprecedented impact" on the provincial budget, he said.
While municipalities may have faced cuts in grants-in-lieu, Teneycke says the province has handed out more than $257 million to Saskatchewan municipalities in "no strings attached" municipal revenue sharing this year, an increase of 103 per cent in funding since 2007.