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Tax arrears rose in Q2, but more taxpayers went on repayment plans

By June 30, Moose Jaw taxpayers owed $2,564,950 in outstanding arrears, composed of $915,748 in tax liens and $1,649,202 in arrears payment plans

Tax arrears jumped by nearly $334,000 in the second quarter of this year compared to last year, although more property owners are now on a repayment plan with city hall.

By June 30, Moose Jaw taxpayers owed $2,564,950 in outstanding arrears, composed of $915,748 in tax liens and $1,649,202 in arrears payment plans, a report from city hall showed.

In comparison, at the end of Q2 in 2020, taxpayers owed $2,225,883, which comprised $1,324,178 in tax liens and $901,705 in payment plans. Meanwhile, at the end of Q2 in 2019, taxpayers owed $1,909,556 in total arrears, including $1,089,576 in tax liens and $819,980 in payment plans.

The difference between this year’s total outstanding arrears and last year’s outstanding arrears is $339,067.

The total amount of property taxes that city hall could have received by June 30 was $30.17 million, with $2.5 million of that being arrears, the report said. In comparison, total taxes and arrears in past years show:

  • 2020: $27.4 million / $2.2 million
  • 2019: $15.5 million / $1.9 million
  • 2018: $13.7 million / $1.6 million
  • 2017: $13.3 million / $1.1 million
  • 2016: $12.3 million / $1.1 million

City administration presented a report containing Q2 financial details during the recent city council meeting. Council later voted to receive and file the document.

Coun. Crystal Froese pointed out that while property tax arrears took a significant jump between 2020 and 2021, one upside was more taxpayers were on a repayment plan. However, since a pandemic was still ongoing, she wondered if city administration had contacted other municipalities to see whether they were facing similar problems.

“We’ve been in conversation with communities and what we’re seeing is not unusual,” said finance director Brian Acker. “The reality of the pandemic has created quite a number of issues — whether it’s taxation or utility payments — for members of the community to pay that.”

One issue on which city hall has worked diligently is encouraging residents to go on repayment plans, he added. As a result, many residents are willing to work with city hall and go on those plans, while city hall is being as flexible as possible with this problem.

After the meeting, Acting Mayor Dawn Luhning said that she is concerned about the increase in tax arrears while council should also be worried — even though this issue is out of its control.

“Tax arrears are tax arrears. You just have to deal with it the way we deal with it … ,” she added. “There are rules in The Cities Act that allow us to do what we have to do if we take property or whatever happens.” 

City council directed city administration last year to find ways to help people struggling with paying their property taxes, so city hall has worked to do just that, said city manager Jim Puffalt. As the economy returns to normal, city hall hopes to see those arrears decrease.

“As the director of finance said … this is prevalent across the province (and) we suspect across Canada and North America,” he continued. “Lots of people are having issues with payments and so we have to find ways to give them a hand.”

Outstanding debt

The City of Moose Jaw owes more than $50 million based on previous loans it borrowed for projects. Those projects include:

  • Multiplex long-term loan: $13.3 million
  • Sanitary sewer long-term loan: $2.8 million
  • Waterworks capital long-term loan: $25.7 million
  • Buffalo Pound Water Corporation loan term loan (at 26 per cent): $10.6 million

The next regular council meeting is Monday, Sept. 27. 

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