Saskatoon business owner says property tax increase latest challenge

Cole Thorpe, who owns retail store Prairie Proud, has been working hard to keep his business going during the pandemic and says curveballs in the city’s 2022-2023 budget make it even harder.

“As a small business owner, whether it’s been COVID restrictions, supply chain challenges and now property tax increases, it just seems like we’re continually getting hit with challenges,” he said.

After three days of deliberations, city council approved a 3.86 per cent property tax increase for next year and 3.53 per cent for 2023.

For commercial properties, that amount will be even higher as they are expected to pay a ratio of 1.59 more on top of that.

Clae Hack, the chief financial officer for the City of Saskatoon, said the rate is still competitive with other cities like Edmonton and Calgary.

“I think through council’s review and what we approved, it still holds Saskatoon as one of the lowest commercial property tax rates in western Canada and in my opinion, we get some nice services for those dollars as well,” he told CTV News.

Utility rates for water and wastewater usage are also set to go up in 2022 and 2023 by 2.5 per cent and 3.4 per cent respectively.

For Thorpe, the increase means his business will have to pay more in rent for its occupancy cost, which is tied to the property tax.

“Any cost increase as a small business right now is challenging based upon the fact that there’s just no guarantee on revenue. We’re very much still not fully recovered from the COVID situation that we’ve all been dealing with,” he said.

“So, when you add that additional stress to any business, it’s something that we’re all getting tired and frustrated by in terms of we’d like things to get back to normal.”

The Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce is also disappointed with the city’s approved budget.

CEO Jason Aebig said the Chamber urged council to keep costs under control and competitiveness at the forefront of its deliberations by finding savings and deferring spending until Saskatoon’s economic forecast improves.

Aebig said it’s hard to accept that there were no additional savings in the city’s $1.2 billion budget.

“Every dollar that a business is required to pay in taxes is one less dollar that they can use to hire or rehire or reinvest in their businesses and now, more than ever, we need these businesses to be fuelling this economic recovery.”

Keith Moen, executive director of the NSBA Saskatoon Business Association, calls the increases “tone deaf.”

He said he believes some things included in the budget didn’t appear as pressing as other matters.

Moen said this will also impact how much consumers spend and where.

“It’s going to dip into the pocketbook of the consumer and with that, there will be decisions that will be made by those consumers about where they’re going to spend their other money that they have available and it’s quite often the case where businesses will suffer as a result of that because they won’t be able to rely on that consumer spending they once did.”

On Thursday, Mayor Charlie Clark told CTV News that he recognizes it is important for the city to do everything it can to keep the tax rate low but that it’s also crucial to maintain services and address issues the city is facing.