Dear Mayor Clark and Saskatoon City Council,
Thank you for your deliberations as you work to finalize the City’s 2022-2023 Business Plan and Budget.
A multi-year budget and planning process is complex and challenging as you weigh future opportunities against the current and future needs of Saskatoon’s residents and business community.
We recognize that the City is not immune to the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the same way, the City cannot escape from having to make the same hard choices that businesses and households have had to make over the last 18 months. Scaling back plans, pausing new initiatives, reducing costs, innovating to deliver with less – these are the difficult steps our businesses have already taken to adjust to the realities of COVID and keep Saskatoon’s economy moving.
As you set the Indicative Budget for 2022 and 2023, and explore budget options, we challenge you to lead by following their example. Saskatoon’s economic recovery is at stake.
A substantial increase to commercial property taxes would slow Saskatoon’s rate of economic growth, weaken the ability of current businesses to reopen, rehire and reinvest in their operations, make Saskatoon less competitive within our region, and ultimately less attractive to any new or expanding businesses looking to set up operations.
It would most adversely affect the independent and small businesses already here – like those in our Riversdale, Sutherland, Broadway, Mayfair and Central Business Districts – that are essential to safety, vibrancy and quality of life in these neighbourhoods and vital to our economy overall.
Critically, for those businesses already operating on the periphery of the city, a significant rate increase could push them to neighbouring municipalities where taxation levels are lower and advantageous.
We need to be competitive among Western Canadian cities, and within our region, to ensure Saskatoon attracts good jobs, more residents and career opportunities for our kids. Now, more than ever, competition among cities for new and expanding businesses is fierce. Saskatoon needs to do what it takes to compete and win.
As you review the Indicative Budget and set the 2022-2023 Business Plan and Budget, we strongly urge you to:
1. Consult directly with commercial ratepayers to understand the impact of the proposed rate increases on their ability to rehire and reopen fully; and
2. Find savings, defer spending, freeze non-essential hires, temporarily adjust service levels and make trade-offs between priorities to minimize any rate increase.
This budget cycle, we urge you to follow the lead of Saskatoon’s businesses who continue to make sacrifices and hard choices – and expect nothing less from their City and Council.