'Salt in the wound': Riversdale business owners learn there is a long road ahead to try and reduce steep tax bills
SASKATOON -- Appeals for a tax freeze or property reassessments came from frustrated Riversdale business owners during a public meeting at the Roxy Theatre Tuesday morning where the City explained the raises and talked about the next steps.
The meeting comes after some property owners were hit with steep tax increases that some feel could put their businesses underwater.
Mayor Charlie Clark as well as city councillor David Kirton were personally at the meeting and city assessor Bryce Trew and several other councillors joined by Zoom.
Members of the Riversdale Business Improvement District (RBID), as well as business owners in the area, were hoping to gain more understanding about what can be done about the tax hikes.
Trew opened up the meeting with a presentation on this year’s assessments, explaining more about the steps taken by the city when reassessing property value.
An explanation wasn’t what some business owners were after however, as some like Carmen Hamm, owner of Cohen’s Beer Republic and Picaro Cocktails and Tacos, wanted to know what can be done at this point.
“Our business was forced to close completely and we’ve had our business operations restricted since last March. As we have heard these are unprecedented times,” Hamm said.
“We’re wondering if there is any opportunity in these unprecedented times to see unprecedented action with reopening the opportunity for assessment.”
The pandemic was a theme at the meeting, with many business owners speaking about how they are just starting to rebound as the steep tax bills arrived..
“I really, really struggle looking at a 58 per cent tax increase, especially when it is only being phased in over two years.” Curtis Olson of Shift Development said during the meeting.
“These are compounding increases that I guarantee will result in me losing tenants, will result in businesses closing because these are very challenging times, coming off a year of a pandemic. I look at these tax increases as salt in the wound and a nail in the coffin.”
IN PROVINCE'S HANDS
The city explained that the appeal process has closed as of March 29th, and any steps taken to reopen the reassessment process would require action from the provincial government.
“The dates of when the (tax) roll is open and how many days it needs to be open for a year, so on a revaluation year it’s legislated that the roll needs to be open for 60 days, on a non-revaluation year the roll is only open for 30 days,” Trew said.
“That is all in legislation, so any changes to legislation would need to go through government relations.”
'I WANT TO SEE WHAT WE CAN DO': MAYOR
Several speakers at the meeting became emotional when presenting, or talking with people after the meeting, with many worrying about their future in Riversdale or the survival of their business.
Mayor Clark closed out the meeting with some words to the audience, talking about how he will see what the city can do to address the situation, but he couldn’t make any promises as there won't be a finance committee meeting until August.
“I think sending a letter to council as a whole that ends up getting in the queue is a first step,” Clark said.
“I don’t want to create false expectations here, I want to see what we can do. This has been really hard, the sort of compounding effects of COVID hitting certain sectors,” Clark said.