Two Sides Of Trends Discussed
It was a bit of a battle of trends, statistics and percentages as the final updated six month and 2018 year and financial reports were presented at Council.
Both documents had been previously presented at Council at their previous meeting when Director of Finance Brian Acker was unavailable to answer questions because he was away on vacation. Council asked for the reports to come back this past Monday.
Unfortunately Mr Acker was ill and unable to attend the meeting but nevertheless the discussion proceeded.
In that discussion City Manager Jim Puffalt pointed out two sources of good news on the property tax front.
The first was the City was ahead of budget by $150,000 due to wins on tax appeals.
“When it comes to municipal taxation that is a good news story we are $150,000 above budget. As Mr Acker notes that is due to increased assessment from appeals from residential and commercial properties,” Puffalt said.
The other good news on the taxation front was a large outstanding tax payment had recently been made to the City, he said
Although Puffalt did not name who made the payment the Grant Hall Hotel has recently been acquired by Carpere Hotels.
The company is controlled by the same group Carpere who are in the process of purchasing a large amount of land in the new Southeast Industrial Park.
In the 2018 tax lien roll the Grant Hall Hotel property owed the largest amount of unpaid taxes.
In his comments regarding unpaid taxes and liens on property Councillor Brian Swanson pointed out what he saw as rapidly growing property tax arrears and liens.
Mentioning the large property tax payment Councillor Swanson made mention of a recent property sale as the likely reason the large tax payment was received.
“I appreciate a significant tax payment has come in its probably because the property has changed hands and the arrears had to be cleared before the sake going through,” he said.
In the August 13 edition of the Moose Jaw Express newspaper Carpere Hotels has published a legal notice it was applying for a liquor license for the Grant Hall Hotel.
Councillor Swanson then turned his attention to two statistics – year to year tax arrears on June 30th as well as the amount of property taxes not paid at the property tax due date.
In the area of tax liens he made mention of the growing upward trend dollar wise and percentage-wise.
On June 30, 2017 property tax liens totaled $484,516 a year later they were $605,698 or an increase of 40 percent. On June 30, 2018 property tax liens were $1,089,576 or an increase of 80 percent from 2017. (See chart below)
“As I said before the six months statistics should be taken with a grain of salt but they can be indicative,” Councillor Swanson said.
In the area of outstanding present year unpaid taxes Councillor Swanson said the number showed the struggle many were having with paying their property taxes and now would be assessed a penalty. The annual due date for present year property taxes is June 30th.
“People choosing not to pay their property taxes by the end of June is increasing significantly especially if you look at the chart it goes back to 2014 and you see it is a 50 percent increase in people not able to or chose not to pay their taxes by June 30th.”
"I think that's a statistic to bear in mind that shows the pressure that's being put on our municipal property tax base."
SEE RELATED - Commercial Properties Main Source of Growing Arrears
Unpaid arrears and current tax year outstanding property taxes were $10,267,174 on June 30, 2014 and on June 30, 2019 it was $15,597,758. (See Chart Below)
During his comments regarding the year end figures, which were presented immediately after the six month financial statement, Mayor Fraser Tolmie stressed the positives and how Council and the City was attempting to break and change the trends.
The City had weathered a major financial storm when $4.5 million in grants in lieu were taken away by the Province two years ago, Mayor Tolmie said adding steps were taken to reverse the trends.
“I heard the comment about trends and I think that is an important word. Not that we should be taking about style but being a trendsetter. How do you correct a negative trend? …that is by going out and attracting new jobs,” Mayor Tolmie stated.
He spoke about the low unemployment in the Moose Jaw region and how through speaking to employers and following through with the federal government new workers will be arriving.
“But if you go to local employers one of the challenges they have is getting people to work. What do we do to combat that? We actually spoke to the federal government and actually have an immigration policy to help businesses that are struggling to get people to work to work.”
“When you talk about real estate June was a good month for real estate…building permits between January and July we are up $2.6 million…the City of Moose Jaw has opportunity.”
Mayor Tolmie spoke about the accomplishments such as a new distillery, the proposed SaskPower natural gas fired generating station and Sycamore Energy establishing their new Saskatchewan headquarters in Moose Jaw bringing good paying jobs.
“We have to change the narrative in this community in order to change the statistics presented to us. If you want to change the trends you have to take an active part with businesses to help them thrive,” Mayor Tommie stated.