Higher-than-normal property tax hikes a Sask. trend this year

CBC News, February 28, 2014 - Higher-than-usual property tax increases in Saskatchewan's two largest cities are part of a province wide trend this year. While the inflation rate for Saskatchewan has been about 2 per cent over the past year, residents of most cities are seeing higher tax hikes.

When Saskatoon approved a 7.4 per cent property tax hike in December, it was the highest increase that city had seen in decades.

This week, Regina city councillors also approved a larger-than usual tax increase of close to 5.9 per cent.

People in other cities are looking at bigger increases, including Estevan's proposed 10 per cent.

Lloydminster, meanwhile, has already approved a budget that raises the levy by nearly 8.7 per cent.

The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association says the increases are part of a trend that's linked to the pressures of population growth and the need to fix aging infrastructure.

According to SUMA CEO Laurent Mougeot, cities and towns have been looking at their finances a new way in recent years trying to deal with their infrastructure backlogs.

"It's a new way of doing business," Mougeot said. "You can't hide behind a tax freeze anymore."

Some municipal tax hikes will be higher in 2014 than they have been in previous years, he added.

While Regina's 5.88 per cent tax hike has been in the news lately, some other cities have been seeing lower tax increases: Yorkton's is 5.5 per cent.

Prince Albert city council will vote Monday on a proposal to raise taxes 4.5 per cent. In Moose Jaw, the increase is 3.6 per cent.

Marilyn Braun Pollon, Saskatchewan spokeswoman for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says Regina and other municipalities should be trying harder to spare taxpayers.

"They need to limit their spending to the rate of inflation and population growth and they're way above that," she said.

"We're not saying zero property tax hike, what we're saying is that your spending needs to be sustainable."

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