CFIB: Property tax increase will hurt independent businesses

Lisa Goudy
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City hall is seen on Monday.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has concerns about the City of Moose Jaw’s 2014 operating budget.

“(It) is clear that more must be done to ensure fair property taxation in Moose Jaw,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, vice-president of Prairie and Agri-Business, in a letter addressed to council. “Given Moose Jaw small business owners currently pay more than double (2.05) the municipal property taxes of residential property owners our members are concerned the City of Moose Jaw is considering another property tax hike for 2014 of 2.52 per cent.

“While Moose Jaw small businesses certainly value infrastructure investment, they are concerned about the impact this hike will have on Moose Jaw’s competitiveness.”

No one from the CFIB was at Monday’s budget committee meeting, but the letter was distributed to councillors at the meeting. It was received and filed.

The letter said if the 2.52 per cent property tax increase approved, it would follow the 3.69 per cent increase in 2013 and a 3.92 per cent increase in 2012. That would result in a three-year 10.13 per cent tax increase.

The CFIB launched a petition for municipal leaders to “mitigate property tax hikes by further spending restraint at City Hall.” The letter said 70 small business owners in Moose Jaw have already signed the petition.

Also, property tax hikes affect the city’s ability to attract new businesses to the community. In the CFIB’s Communities in Boom report, between July 2012 and July 2013, Moose Jaw saw a decrease of 1.3 per cent in business establishment growth. Conversely, Prince Albert saw an increase of 3.8 per cent and Saksatoon saw an increase of 4.3 per cent.

“We are also very concerned that the City of Moose Jaw’s property tax hikes continue to eat into provincial education property tax relief,” it said. “While the Province of Saskatchewan has taken important steps forward toward reforming education financing, we worry those education property tax savings delivered in recent years are quickly being eroded by Saskatchewan municipalities introducing property tax hikes.”

Further, the letter said a recent CFIB survey asked members to “rate their local government’s value-for-money of public services.” The choices were poor, adequate or good. In Moose Jaw, 52 per cent of small business owners rated the city as poor, 44 per cent said adequate and four per cent said good.

Included in the letter were also several recommendations. The first was for the city to “carefully review what is driving spending growth.”

With a budget proposing an increase of 3.04 per cent in expenses, from $37.2 million in 2013 to $38.3 million in 2014, the CFIB said city wages and benefits need to be examined because they take up two-thirds of operating spending.

Other recommendations included introducing a plan to decrease the size and cost of the municipal civil service over time and to “review current programs and services to identify those that can be “eliminated, streamlined, contracted out to the private sector, or sold.”

The CFIB also recommended working towards increased additional revenue sharing instead of increasing taxes to finance city infrastructure projects and to think about establishing a long-term plan to “reduce the commercial-to-residential property tax gap over time.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: CFIB, Prince Albert

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

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