Some Saskatoon businesses may not survive 'shocking' tax increase, Riversdale group says
SASKATOON -- The Riversdale Business Improvement District (RBID) is calling for a freeze on property taxes after many business owners were surprised with a "shocking" increase in property taxes for 2021 and 2022.
In a media release issued Monday, RBID claimed some businesses could face closure as a result of tax notices received in May.
"In the Riversdale district, property owners received tax notices in May for balances due by June 30, with increases from 2020 taxes by an average of 65 percent; some jumped up as high as 700 per cent," the RBID release said.
According to RBID, a City of Saskatoon audit of property values in 2019 services as the "the backbone of the current assessed values."
Some property owners are "incensed" by the increase and believe the assessments are "substantially above market value by hundreds of thousands of dollars," the RBID statement said.
The advocacy group pointed to hardships it says businesses experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of Sid Buckwold Bridge for repairs.
"Riversdale has faced multiple obstacles for years, with Sid Buckwold Bridge closures limiting access for March-October of both 2019 and 2020, causing many businesses to see revenue drops upwards of 40 per cent," RBID said.
"The City of Saskatoon has 'phased in' the increases over 2021 and 2022, meaning the astounding increases for this year represent only half of what can be expected going forward."
Neil Robinson has owned Garden Architecture and Design for 17 years and in all that time he said he has never seen tax increases this high.
“I know with our business here, we’re seeing tax increases of 150 to 200 per cent on our buildings,” Robinson told CTV News.
Robinson said in any other year an increase like this would be hard to deal with - but in a year where businesses are starting to get back to normal after a pandemic, he said this couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“We’re not even through our pandemic at this point. Businesses have been functioning at partial. This impact in a recovery to businesses is very detrimental.”
Brad Farmer, co-owner of Krazy Kiley’s, said he has seen his taxes go up 40 per cent since 2017 and 21 per cent this year.
“Some smaller increases and we’ve had a couple years where it doesn’t move at all, which were nice. But small increases. I can see when you’re dealing with four and five per cent, but wow, 21. Even four and five is high,” Farmer said.
Farmer said he is concerned that if this continues, he could see the whole area suffering and businesses closing their doors.
“It’s really going to hurt the market, hurt Saskatoon, hurt the economy here, especially when we have got to be rebounding and getting out of this pandemic,” Farmer told CTV.
“There’s going to be companies smaller than ours that won’t be able to keep going with an increase like this, I know it.”
RBID said members of the neighbourhood's business community will meet with the City of Saskatoon Tuesday morning at the Roxy Theatre to push for a tax freeze "and open the avenues for reassessment for 2022 before any further increases are put into effect."
Both Farmer and Robinson said they will be in attendance and hope to get some answers from the City.
According to an emailed statement from the City of Saskatoon, the city's governance and priorities committee — which met Monday morning — has asked city administration to look at ways to potentially reduce tax rates.
The committee's move came in response to preliminary 2022-2023 budget figures outlined by city administration in a report which proposed 5.96 per cent and 5.42 per cent property tax increases over the respective years.
The focus of the meeting set for Tuesday morning will be to provide information about the assessment process to the businesses, the city statement said.
"However any requests from the (RBID) or businesses on tax rates need to made at a public meeting of city council or a committee of city council," the city's email said.
City Assessor Bryce Trew and other members of city administration are expected to attend the meeting.