Proposed property tax increases will stall Saskatoon’s recovery

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Opportunity for Council to lead by following example of businesses and households

SASKATOON, SK – June 21, 2021 – The Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce is warning that a dramatic increase to commercial property tax rates will undermine Saskatoon’s capacity to recover the jobs, incomes and economic growth lost to COVID-19. It is calling on Saskatoon City Council to hold any increase to within 0.5% of inflation, explore additional budget deferrals and freeze all non-essential hires (FTE positions outside of fire and protective services) to Q3 2022.

The Chamber is also urging Council to consult directly with business owners and commercial ratepayers on the impact any recommended rates would have on their ability to rehire and reopen fully at this critical time.

“Saskatoon’s economic recovery will be a business-led recovery,” notes Jason Aebig, CEO of the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce. “Our businesses are eager to recover however every new dollar in taxes will weaken their capacity to create the jobs, products and economic activity needed to fuel that recovery.”

According to Aebig, a substantial jump in commercial property tax rates 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 the success of Saskatoon’s economic recovery 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,” says Aebig. “Now, more than ever, competition among cities for new and expanding businesses will be fierce. We need to do what it takes to compete and win.”

In a report headed to City Council’s Governance and Priorities Committee today, City Administration has suggested an estimated property tax rate of 5.96 per cent for 2022 and 5.42 per cent for 2023 based on preliminary operating costs and inflation.

“City Administration did what it was asked to do: estimate the costs of specific projects and services based on the city’s current set of plans and priorities. Now, Council can do what it needs to do: take a wider view, consider any rate increase against the urgent need to accelerate our post-COVID economic recovery and find savings, reduce costs, defer spending and make trade-offs between priorities to help make it happen,” observes Aebig.

He continues: “We recognize that the City is not immune to the economic challenges of COVID. In the same way, it cannot escape from having to make the same hard choices that businesses and households have had to make over the last 18 months. We hope that Council to take this opportunity to show leadership by following their example.”

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For more information contact
Margot Orr
Director of Policy & Government Relations
Phone: (306) 664-0701