Moose Jaw continues to lose tax revenue from commercial assessment appeals and this week, council sought to get some answers from the folks who calculate those assessments.
The Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency does that work for the city and CEO Irwin Blank says this has been an issue for years and they want answers too.
"In 2017 alone, we spent 4500 staff days handling appeal issues," explained Blank.
The losses come from commercial owners challenging the assessment figures and if they win, they see their taxes lowered. Blank says high-pressure lawyers specifically trained in this area are marketing themselves to business owners as a way to save them money on taxation.
"I think part of our challenge in Moose Jaw is that the current assessments are based on the value of property as of January 1, 2015, and in the commercial sector the market has softened since 2015 and when some of the commercial property owners look at their properties and consider the current value, they think that the assessment is overstated."
Blank explained that the assessment is meant to be a snapshot in time but when the appeal goes to the local board of revision, those dedicated lawyers are able to convince the volunteers that an error has been made. Blank says those are the files that are then appealed to the provincial level however just the fact that a ruling has been issued in the business's favour, prompts more assessment appeals.
"Other property owners with similar properties see that some of these properties have been appealed and the assessments have been adjusted and now other commercial properties are saying 'Well, if they could get an adjustment perhaps we should appeal our assessment as well' and they are being encouraged by some professional appellants that have been in town and seeking extra business."
During the meeting with council, it was mentioned that the local board volunteers could stand to receive more training to be able to handle some of these files and Blank agreed, adding that the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association has called on the province to step in and provide that training.