Skip to content

Unfair property tax for education costs shows need for overhaul of system

Ron Walter discusses reducing/eliminating property tax for education.
Bizworld by Ron Walter

Property assessment complaints that demand the Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency (SAMA) re-evaluate Moose Jaw assessments haven’t been answered at this point in writing.

The apparent injustice in Moose Jaw and the un-explainable assessments should require a review by the independent auditors who share offices with SAMA.

Another so-called white elephant sits in the room besides the weird assessment practices.

The funding method for education from property taxes is unjust and unfair. Property ownership bears no direct relationship to education.

The fact that education is funded at all by proper taxes arises from the early white settlement days in North America.

The settlers wanted their children to get an education and needed a fair and reasonable way to raise money for the school and teacher. 

Everybody pretty well owned property so property tax became the means to finance education.

Over a century later, we are still stuck with this now outdated taxation model to fund education.

The only time Saskatchewan has done anything about this unfair tax was in 2009. Elected on a platform of reducing property tax burden for farmers, the Brad Wall government cut the property tax for education substantially.

The move took the provincial share of education funding to 51 per cent and reduced the burden on property owners.

A few years later, faced with another deficit budget, the Saskatchewan Party government took back some of the tax break.

Currently, Saskatchewan relies on property tax for over one-third of the education costs. In 2021, 37.5 per cent of the education budget was funded by property tax.

That same year, only B.C. and Manitoba relied more on property taxes. B.C. property taxes paid for 82.2 per cent of education.

In Manitoba, property taxes funded 57.4 per cent of the bill. Since then Manitoba decided to remove property taxes on education. Owners got a 37.5 per cent rebate last year, with 50 per cent this year. Plans are total elimination over 10 years.

The big debate in Manitoba concerns whether the province can afford to eliminate school tax from property, given the huge ongoing deficits.

Saskatchewan municipalities and leaders used to continually cry about this unfair tax for education.

Since the Wall government reduction, these parties are quiet as a church mouse on the issue.

A move to further reduce the education burden on property tax would have considerable positive features.

Property owners would be taxed more fairly. Reducing that burden would allow municipalities more leeway to fund projects from property taxes.

By doing that, the need for more funding from the province would be reduced.

It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to make changes like reducing/eliminating property tax for education. Given this government’s tendency to rule based on polls, maybe it’s time for municipal leaders to put on the pressure.

Property tax as part of K-12 funding 2021

  • Sask     36.7%
  • Alta     30.7%
  • Ont      26.4%
  • BC      82.2%
  • Que      2.4%
  • NS        2.7%
  • NB       21%
  • PEI       8.8%
  • NL        4.9%
  • Man    57.4%


Ron Walter can be reached at   

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks