Taxpayers between a rock and hard place

Residential property owners in the city of Weyburn will receive a larger bill for property taxes than last year, after city council passed their budget for 2019 with a 3.81 per cent increase on Monday night.
For an owner of a home assessed at $300,000, that will translate to an increase of $50 on the year to a tax bill of $2,488, assuming the education tax portion is not changed.
Since the provincial government sets the rate for education taxes in the province, that will not be known until they bring down their budget in March, and it’s anybody’s guess if it will go up or not.
In chairing the council meeting in the absence of the mayor, Coun. Winston Bailey raised a most relevant question: since house prices are down and the economy in general is down, how can city residents be expected to absorb more taxation?
This is a very important question, especially for the working poor or those families where a wage-earner is out of work, or for a person who has a limited income, such as a senior living on a pension.
How indeed are they supposed to handle higher taxes? This is particularly true about the increase to the base tax from $600 to $625, which is put on every residential property regardless of size or value.
That question was not answered, but Coun. Bailey provided some justification, in that there are infrastructure projects that need to be finished, and there were contracts approved that will see higher wages that impact on the budget. The City did have some major projects in 2018 that will need to be finished this year, such as the completion of the new 13-million-litre reservoir for the city’s water system, and the paving of Government Road that had to be put off from the fall.
The good news is that the increase is small enough that it keeps Weyburn’s property tax rates among the lowest in the province, where only Melville and North Battleford have lower residential taxes, based on 2017 levels.
For the business sector, the Weyburn Chamber had asked the city to have a commercial-to-residential ratio of 1.6, while this budget keeps Weyburn at a 1.8 ratio. This means for every $1 in residential taxes, commercial property owners pay $1.80.
Residents have a certain expectation for a level of service from the City, and it all comes at a cost. If the cost is too high, then services will have to be cut or staff reduced, and nobody wants to see that.

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