Sunday, 27 March 2016


Happy Easter Regina!!

This Tuesday, March 29, 2016, Regina City Council is set to vote on a number of Property Tax Exemptions, as happens every year around this time. Upon review of the proposed exemptions, there are many questions that come up every year, and this year is no different. The theme that I am looking at this year, being an election year, is the concept of providing fair and equitable treatment to all taxpayers of Regina. Are these Property Tax Exemptions going to those parties that truly need them? Are there parties out there that could really use them but aren't being offered them because they simply don't know they are eligible? Is there a better way to handle this going forward? 

This and more to be addressed starting at 5:30PM Tuesday at City Hall! Be there or...tune into my blog for more!

Here are my delegations for that evening. I have also provided a PDF of each for you to download if you are so inclined.

Boundary Alteration – 2016 Property Tax Exemptions
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chad Novak, and I am here representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, which is a grassroots organization proudly standing up for the rights of individual taxpayers. The first item I would like to address this evening is the 2016 Property Tax Exemptions for properties that were included in the approved November 2013 Boundary Alterations.

A common theme you’re going to hear from me this evening is the concept of providing fair and equitable treatment of all taxpayers of Regina. To that extent, I feel strongly that the overall concept of tax exemptions for properties brought into City boundaries is fair to an extent, as it can be quite a jump in property taxes going from an RM to a City the size of Regina. With that said, the question becomes just how much is fair, for how long, and should it make a difference if the property owner did not want to be annexed versus those that had explicitly requested to be annexed.

Based on my research, the general consensus is the exemption amount and the time contained within this framework is more than fair, where the amount and length of exemption is dependent upon the anticipated timeline of when the affected lands may be used for City purposes rather than RM purposes. However, there is serious concern amongst taxpayers regarding property owners that specifically requested to be annexed versus those that were annexed against their wishes, as well as differentiating between commercial and residential property owners. Also, and we can’t stress this enough, the ability to pay should be a major factor, and like is policy for other city services, it is felt that any affected property owners should have to demonstrate that the additional property taxes will cause “unreasonable financial hardship” as a result of the annexation. And, in fact, this clause was included within this very policy as you will see in Appendix A. We would be remiss to not mention the fact that, according to real estate experts, the mere act of annexation immediately increases the affected property’s value because of the fact they are now within City jurisdiction and have access to City services. Keeping this in mind, it is a fact that a major property owner East of Tower Road very quickly flipped some of their affected lands to the Province for the Regina Bypass and to the City for the Pacers Ball Park relocation for upwards of 10x the value immediately prior to annexation. This was with absolutely no improvement by that property owner.

Further on the concept of “unreasonable financial hardship”, it seems only reasonable that a homeowner who has lived in the RM for decades should be considered moreso for relief from the additional property tax versus, say, a giant multimillion dollar corporation who explicitly requested to be annexed into the City for undisclosed reasons, who ought to have anticipated and budgeted for the additional property taxes. A reasonable person would argue that they most certainly have the ability to afford the higher taxes, even before taking into account the financial benefits that is realized because of that annexation. As you can see in Appendix B, one of these companies, publicly traded AGT Foods on East Primrose Drive, which is amongst a group of companies associated with Alliance Pulse Processors, Long Lake Investment Inc. and Nutrasun Foods Ltd., is set to receive over $80,000 in property tax exemption this year alone. When factored over the anticipated 15 year life span of this exemption, barring any further extensions, that translates to over $1.2M in lost property taxes to the City of Regina and in turn, its residents. For a company with annual revenues nearing two billion dollars, as outlined in Appendix C, I would hardly consider them to have realized any “unreasonable financial hardship” due to annexation.

It is also important to note that the aforementioned properties were never previously included in any long-term (25 year) Official Community Plans prior to 2013. The question that a reasonable person would have to ask is – why then were these lands annexed and why did we not stick to the 25 year plans as previously designed up to 2011?

Thank you for your time this evening, and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.

2016 Annual Property Tax Exemptions
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chad Novak, and I am here representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, which is a grassroots organization proudly standing up for the rights of individual taxpayers. I am here to address the 2016 Annual Property Tax Exemptions.
As I said before, a common theme you’re going to hear from me this evening is the concept of providing fair and equitable treatment of all taxpayers in Regina. To that extent, I feel strongly that the entire listing of annual property tax exemptions, and more specifically the policy behind it, needs to have a thorough review and a complete overhaul. A quick review of the list of properties subject to exemption will show you what I mean. There are some sporting organizations receiving tax exemptions, where others are not. There are some cultural organizations on the list, where others are not. There are some non-profit organizations on the list, where others are not. To me, this suggests one of two things – either the treatment of all applicable groups is not being applied fairly, or more likely, not all organizations that may be eligible for a tax exemption are aware that they could apply and be granted an exemption.

Tonight, we’ve seen a prime example of this with the Saskatchewan Multicultural Centre Association. Their worthwhile cultural organization has paid property taxes for decades, and now, only when they are in financial dire straits, they have applied for an exemption. At first Administration recommended denial, but thankfully the Finance and Administration Committee not only saw this as a fair request, but also recommended approval of the exemption request for at least three years. With regards to their specific situation, I would personally like to see the City of Regina provide a rebate to their organization for the property taxes they’ve paid over the past 25 years, as a goodwill gesture. I am confident that this would be a welcome financial boost to their group, and by the taxpayers of Regina, since they unfortunately lost a significant portion of their annual funding because of a short-sighted action by our Provincial Government.

We desperately need a complete overhaul of our policies for property tax exemptions, so there isn’t any further confusion by community groups as to their qualification for such exemptions. Most importantly, we need to implement a clear policy on charitable and non-profit organizations, since one does not currently exist (See Appendix A). Further to this, we also need to implement an “ability to pay” clause into these exemptions, because as we’ve seen in recent years, there are organizations receiving continued property tax exemptions simply because “that’s what they’ve received in the past” – even though their financial circumstances had changed significantly from when they first applied for the exemption. One glaring recent example of this was the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who in the 1990’s most certainly needed a hand up from anywhere they could get it. However, in recent years, their financial situation had significantly improved which called this exemption into question, and rightfully, it was finally removed. The same can be said for other organizations like the Cornwall Centre for their parkade, or the Regina Airport Authority (RAA). What I find interesting about the RAA is, based on the current formula (See Appendix B), when it comes time to determine their property tax exemption, it would appear that the more financially successful they are, the higher their property tax exemption actually is. This seems almost counter intuitive, at least on the ability to pay premise.

On the concept of fair and equitable treatment of all community groups, I can’t help but question the exemption for the Regina Trades and Skills Centre (RTSC). Granted, they provide assistance for certain trades, similar to how Sask Polytechnic might, but I don’t think they are an accredited educational facility. Not to take anything away from their ability to help the construction industry, but they are nothing more than a glorified training room at a construction company as shown by their “Who We Are” section of their website, as shown in Appendix C. Their organization is quite similar, in fact, to the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology Career Centre, which operates just down the street from the RTSC. As far as I’ve found through my research, they do not receive any sort of tax exemption. My question for you is, why is this, and what can we do to level the playing field for all groups?

Finally this evening, in a situation that appears to have attempted to level the playing field for a particular group, let’s take a look at the Caledonian Curling Club’s tax exemption. I note that the original reason they were granted a property tax exemption, as shown in Appendix D, was actually to pay for a 99 year lease that the City of Regina entered with them in exchange for the use of their facility as a clubhouse for the Craig Golf Course - a golf course which is no longer in operation, and the future of which is subject to review by your organization. That said, I can’t help but wonder, why then are we still giving them a tax exemption? What’s even more bizarre is that, to be “fair”, other curling clubs in the City applied for, and continue to receive, a similar property tax exemption. I think the taxpayers of Regina deserve to know why these clubs receive tax exemptions when there are other groups that can barely make ends meet year over year and could desperately use these kinds of exemptions and financial assistance. 

Thank you for your time this evening, and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.

Regina Property Tax Exemption Review
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chad Novak, and I am here representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, which is a grassroots organization proudly standing up for the rights of individual taxpayers. I am here to address the Regina Property Tax Exemption Review.

Once again, I am working hard to ensure our City provides fair and equitable treatment of all taxpayers in Regina. To that extent, I must say that I am very pleased to see this report not only being initiated by City Council, but also being reviewed in detail by your Administration and brought back for a full public review. With that said, I think we need to take it to the next step and develop a consistent policy to ensure that there are minimal questions and confusion behind what groups can qualify and how they can become aware of their ability to apply.

If I am reading this correctly, according to this report, there are a total of approximately $6.5 Million in property tax exemptions from 2015, with $3.7M of that being the City’s share. Is this accurate? The question that taxpayers want answered is, is this a reasonable amount? To answer that, there are many variables that would need to be looked at, but to me, the more important question to ask is, how much of this is truly necessary, as every dollar that we exempt, we must make up elsewhere, which is often in the form of additional property taxes to residents who are already taxed to death.

When I look at this report, the one item that really jumps out at me is the $2.8M for the Housing Incentive Policy in 2015, spread across 569 accounts. While I applaud you for taking steps to encourage rental housing development, this number is just outrageous and unfortunately, many of these properties are not tied to truly “affordable” housing. I know it is your hope that increasing the supply will cause the market to adjust accordingly, but handing out millions of dollars in tax incentives to an industry that is hardly “just scraping by”, to me is just a slap in the face to the individual property owners in our great City that desperately need truly affordable housing in our community. There are so many people that can barely scrape enough together to put food on their table, let alone pay their property taxes or rents. I’m sure the residents of Regina would love to have that $2.8M put towards even a fraction of their annual property taxes being exempted, which to me would have a far more reaching impact on our cost of living and housing supply than anything.
It is also very important to note that the original intent of the Housing Incentive Policy (See Appendix A) is very commendable, which talks about encouraging development within existing communities. What it appears has happened, though, by the reviewing the list of affected properties, is that this is now expanded to any development anywhere in the City (See Appendix B). This goes against the original intent of the policy altogether, as it doesn’t do anything to encourage infill development or reduce urban sprawl.

Further into this report, there is a specific property tax exemption that Economic Development Regina is now apparently in charge of, and that’s for Economic Development Incentives. I understand that the authority for this tax exemption has been delegated, but do you have a current copy of the criteria required to be met, to get this exemption? The reason I ask is that it seems rather subjective, and given there is only one account taking advantage of this incentive, I have to wonder why more aren’t being granted and what justifications are being used. I recall there being some sort of complex matrix the last time I reviewed this issue, but I’m wondering if that’s still being used.

Thank you for your time this evening, and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.


Tuesday, 1 March 2016


Happy March everyone!!

For anyone that hasn't heard, the Regina Bypass is the province's biggest infrastructure project in history, with the P3 Contract Price being $1.88 Billion. Of that, approximately $680 Million is intended to compensate the P3 Consortium for financing and "potential" unforeseen extra costs that may come up, say if the price of asphalt skyrockets tomorrow. Although, with the price of oil plummeting lately, it's far more likely that the Consortium will get even more profits from this lucrative project than anything. Off of the backs of you and I, the Saskatchewan taxpayer. Don't worry though, at least the Saskatchewan Party isn't tacking it onto our already ballooning debt, because anything financed through a P3 doesn't get counted against the provincial debt. Sneaky, hey? (Remember this come April 4, 2016 Provincial Election Day)

Getting to the point of this post, the City of Regina continues to act as though they are a victim in this whole project, trying to point the arrow of blame away from them, and onto the Wall Government. Most recently, this past Monday, City Council allowed the Province of Saskatchewan to "bypass" six million dollars in Service Agreement Fees that any other developer would have to otherwise pay. While some may argue that it's all tax dollars, in this instance, it's important to differentiate between provincial and municipal tax dollars, and the City taxpayers are getting the short end of the stick on this deal. (NOTE: The City may also be heavily responsible for the controversial land transactions swirling around the Bypass and GTH, but that's to come in a future post)

The Mayor felt obligated to reiterate that it's not the City's doing to locate the Bypass where it is, along Tower Road, and thus not their fault that they had to uproot (again) and relocate (again) the Pacer's Ball Park, which was the reason for this six million dollar issue being brought up. However, it seems that the Mayor forgets, and continues to forget - assumably deliberately - that, while he was on Council, it was actually the City of Regina that went out of it's way, even commissioning an expensive study, to have the Bypass located at Tower Road. This was against the recommendations of the Provincial Government of the time, the surrounding RM's, the general public, and surrounding First Nations. All of those other parties said that Gravel Pit Road was where it should be located, approximately 3KM further East of where it is. But, no, the City of Regina was deadset against that, and they wanted it at Tower Road because it would service their needs better - even though that's not what a Bypass is supposed to be at all.

Just in case the Mayor needs a reminder, here are a couple snapshots for his memory. I plan to meet with him this Friday at his Open House. I encourage you to as well, between 9AM and 11:30AM at City Hall. Just ask at the Commissionaire's desk to see him - you can't walk on to the elevators without a security badge now, because that's just how accessible our City Hall likes to be!