Despite a one mill increase in 2012, Estevan property owners continue to enjoy some of the lowest taxes in all of Saskatchewan.
According to a report provided to The Mercury by Gary St. Onge in his final days as mayor, Estevan has the second lowest residential and commercial taxes in the province.
The report notes that only Swift Current has lower taxes in both categories. Swift Current is also the only community with lower property taxes on condominiums.
While low taxes are obviously a good thing for Estevan ratepayers, there has been a debate as of late about whether or not keeping property taxes so low in a community such of Estevan where there is a plethora of infrastructure work needed is a good thing for the city at large.
Mayor Roy Ludwig, who was victorious in last week’s municipal election, said he looks at the low taxes as a positive, especially on the commercial side.
“We like to keep the taxes low for the commercial as well as the residential,” Ludwig said Monday. “I know some cities don’t put the weight of importance on that but we absolutely do. We take pride in the fact that we are always second or third lowest.
“At one time, as far as the commercial, we were one of the highest in the province so we worked very hard over the intervening years to bring that down. At one time the thought process, if you can believe how archaic it was, was that they could write it off on their taxes so we can keep nailing the commercial, it’s not a problem. But it was a problem.”
Ludwig said although Estevan’s taxes remain low, the past council did recognize the need to fund the city’s growth and was not hesitant to raise taxes. He added the decision to up taxes by one mill was met with no opposition at all from taxpayers.
“(Raising taxes) wasn’t done a lot in the past, but because of all the extra growth it was felt that it was needed to help us mitigate and offset the fact that we have a lot of infrastructure issues,” Ludwig said. “The public actually took that very well.”
According to the report, Estevan taxpayers with a property with an assessed value of $143,000 paid $1,209 in property taxes. Swift Current was by far the lowest in the province at $884 for a property with the same assessment. Saskatoon was third at $1,259, Yorkton fourth at $1,410 and Weyburn fifth at $1,413.
Melville residents continue to pay the highest taxes in the province at $2,250. Melfort is the second highest at $1,951 while Prince Albert is third with $1,905.
On the commercial side, Estevan property owners with an assessed value of $100,000, paid $1,863 in taxes this year. Saskatoon was first at $1,581 while Regina placed third at $2,057. Melville was again the provincial leader at $4,259 followed by North Battleford and Prince Albert.
With respect to condominiums with an assessed value of $143,000, Estevan was again second lowest in the province at $1,099. Swift Current was the lowest at $884 while Moose Jaw, Weyburn and Yorkton rounded out the five lowest communities. Melville was the highest for condos at $2,250.
With much work needed to be done in the city, Ludwig said the challenge going forward for council will be ensuring that all the needs are met without creating an undue burden for taxpayers.
“We have to be fiscally responsible and as much as we’d like to do a lot of things as far as infrastructure and other improvements at one time, we know seriously that we cannot. We have to do it over time and we have to do it with a balanced approach,” he said.
Ludwig noted that a recent announcement by the provincial government that it plans to create a new infrastructure fund could potentially help the City add a few more projects to their schedule without hitting taxpayers.
“We are talking to them more and more,” he said. “We were happy that Minister (Bill) Boyd announced on Friday more monies for infrastructure and the federal government is coming out with infrastructure money in 2014. We are looking favourably on both of these issues that we’ll have extra money without always going to the tax base to do our improvements.”