A protest rally took place in front of Charlotte’s Catering on Dec. 12 because of a frustration over property assessment tax hikes by the Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency (SAMA).
“Tonight is just the tremor in the earthquake that’s to come,” said Bernie Dombowsky, co-owner of Charlotte’s Catering. “This was planned on the absolute spur of the moment when I found out the total losses of the appeals.”
He said the board is delivering decisions that 46 out of 47 appeals will be denied because of a lack of evidence. Everyone had the same rubber stamp: denied due to lack of evidence up to the appellant. They say it is not enough evidence and they (SAMA) are the judge and jury. Dombowsky said there was one successful appellant, and it was Walmart. “So, you know, who’s in control here,” he said.
“They fired the old board of revision because that board had given some positive decisions. They fired the board and put in a new board; it’s now called Western Municipal Consulting,” Dombowsky said.
He also said, Brenda’s hair salon shop next door is assessed higher, and she pays more property tax compared to a local dentist’s office. Dombowsky says Charlotte’s kitchen is assessed higher than Fifth Avenue Jewellery’s head office.
Dombowsky said SAMA has jacked up the appraised value on small businesses of residents that have retail businesses and restaurants and assessed lower for high-earning businesses.
He said there used to be only one standard cap rate before and now this cap rate gives the best rates to doctors, lawyers, dentists and investment brokers only.
“Their rate (seems to be) three times better than the rate they give to small businesses. What’s happening is that businesses that were hurt the hardest with COVID lockdowns are now being crushed with huge property tax increases,” he said.
He mentioned that a high rise on High Street is 27 feetwide with three storeys, but the top two stories are abandoned, and the main floor needs a lot of work. However, the taxes are assessed higher than another property on High Street that is 50 feet wide and has two floors of office space.
A retail shop on Main Street pays about 96 per cent of its projected rental income to pay the property tax, which only leaves four per cent to pay all the other bills and earn a living. On the other hand, another business pays only 16 per cent of its projected income to pay property tax. “That’s a 500-per-cent difference and that’s why we are here tonight,” said Dombowsky. "It’s an unhealthy climate to start a business.”
“(The) appeal assessment system is complicated. The problem lies with the fact they did not use enough data and they altered it; when I asked them if they used actual data, they replied we use the actual adjusted numbers, so those two words can go together,” property owner Kristy Van Slyck said.
She said she is doing this for the community, and it is hard to go through the system and somebody must stand up for it. She says SAMA analyzed 56 sales in four years and determined 14 different cap rates and 17 or 18 different categories with three to four sales per category. Since the analysis began, she claims three sales have already been rejected and it was re-analyzed again then another one got rejected.
“I have dissected their data and system; there’s not enough data. This had an effect of a 34-per-cent decrease in the assessed value of one of my properties,” said Van Slyck. “So, if one sale can make that kind of variance in value, I think you need to check the system.”
She also said she is grateful and impressed with all the support.
“The earthquake needs to come again in January so that we can get organized. So once again, thanks so much for coming out and keep your ears posted for what’s coming in January,” Dombowsky said.