A public conversation will be held on property tax exemptions for non-profit organizations in Regina after daycare centres asked to be included.
The city can’t afford to give a break to all non-profits and in its plan to pick and choose, the administration recommended setting a cap in the policy at $1.2 million in foregone municipal taxes in 2019. That represents 0.55 per cent of the previous year’s budgeted municipal levy.
The big three tax exemption recipients are the RCMP Heritage Centre ($318,061), Saskatchewan Science Centre ($210,542) and MacKenzie Art Gallery ($154,667).
The city’s executive committee referred this proposed policy back to administration after a long afternoon of hearing concerns from several delegations on Wednesday.
Most who spoke, including representatives from the MacKenzie Art Gallery and Saskatchewan Science Centre, called for consultation with non-profits to work out a better plan. Among their concerns was the cap itself. They worried as other organizations are granted property tax exemptions, it would reduce their exemption.
“We have no certainty of where it’s going to go down the road,” said Robert Perry, Past President at MacKenzie Art Gallery.
The plan is to hold a public consultation by the end of the year.
Daycares want a piece of the tax exemption pie
A group of 21 daycares who have been asking for a property tax exemption since being reassessed as commercial properties in 2016, would not make the cut in the proposed policy.
Colleen Schmidt, a member of the Cathedral Area Co-operative Daycare Centre, pointed to Regina’s Official Community Plan which encourages more daycares in the city.
“It’s baffling to me why their document would say create more daycares but then their actual policy would completely exclude us,” she said.
Schmidt and other daycare members found themselves pitted against other non-profits in questions asked by councillors as they argued to be included in the cap.
“Where do you suggest we stop? What happens when seniors care facilities and seniors care programs come forward and say to us ‘We are just as important as the children,'” asked Councilor Sharron Bryce.
“When the watering hole dries up all the animals look at each other differently,” said Schmidt. “We all come here today feeling we’re in competition and I don’t want to have to throw somebody under the bus. They do good work too.”
Schmidt also called for a public consultation and after executive committee decided to go in that direction, she left the meeting feeling ‘tremendously happy to have been heard’.
“I think there’s a lot of power in collaborating with others in the community. I think we can probably find solutions and ways to work together that we never thought of before.”