Weyburn city taxpayers received word this past week that there will be a slight tax increase for 2014, with all residential taxpayers and condo owners to see an increase of $40 on the base tax, and commercial property owners to see a 3.5 per cent increase.
This will be on the municipal portion of property taxes, not including the school portion — and with the provincial budget coming down today, Mar. 19, will also come word on what taxpayers will have to pay on that half of the tax bill, with the mill rate there set by the provincial government. There were hints from Premier Brad Wall that there might be an increase in the education tax portion, in spite of concerns expressed by municipal leaders about this, including from Mayor Debra Button of Weyburn.
Is such an increase warranted, on top of what municipalities are having to do? (Or, conversely, is what Weyburn council is proposing warranted, in light of possible coming tax increases on the school side of the tax bill?)
Another question that could be put forward is, are taxpayers perhaps spoiled a little bit by the city in recent years, with zero tax increases?
Weyburn has certainly had some good years, but there was some who questioned the wisdom of having no tax increases in times of relative prosperity. We still are seeing signs of growth and expansion in the city and area, with construction projects ongoing at a number of sites around the city, but the oil activity may not be quite at the pace it was a couple of years ago.
So realistically, taxpayers can’t really expect the situation to continue where there are no tax hikes in an economy where the prices of many goods and services are going up. The cost of doing business, and of retail items, are increasing, which translates to increased costs to the city to provide the services that they do.
Indeed, most city departments came in with increases, including for labour, while the city will actually be getting a decrease in their Municipal Operating Grant from the province. This is astounding, considering that the city is continuing to grow — and yet, Weyburn will see a decrease of 2.9 per cent, or $65,000, compared to just last year when the city saw an increase of 14.2 per cent, or just under $650,000.
The financial picture is a complicated one, but the bottom line is, $40 isn’t that much to maintain the level of services from the city.