Revamping the Property Assessment System
Be it resolved that SUMA lobby the Provincial Government to set up a task force to look at the property assessment system as a whole.
Provincial legislation assigns responsibility for setting the rules, principles, and formulas used to calculate property assessments in Saskatchewan to the Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency (SAMA). SAMA is an independent agency that operates at arms length from the government. The agency has a board of directors that is comprised of representatives of urban and rural municipalities and the school divisions, plus provincial appointment that include the chair. SAMA has a responsibility to ensure that assessment values in Saskatchewan are fair and equitable. As this resolution seeks a review of the property tax assessment system, SAMA should be approached directly. Government Relations would be willing to participate in a discussion about the perceived need for such a review. The ad valorem property tax system is still the most widely used system across North America for raising revenues for local governments to operate. Nevertheless, the availability of municipal authority for a minimum or base tax allows a municipality to base its revenue on either property value (ad valorem) or benefits received and to achieve a balance considered appropriate by the council. The minimum tax or base tax allows a specific amount to be charged to each property in a property class for basic benefits received, while the remaining revenues required are to be collected through the normal mill rate equation. This authority does not extend to school taxes. Introduction of the authority for a minimum or base tax in the late 1990s marked a fundamental broadening of municipal taxing authority. In Saskatchewan, properties are assessed at fair value which is close to market value. The most common standard for assessment across Canada is market value with a revaluation occurring periodically to ensure values remain up-to-date. The revaluation period in our province is every four years. The goal of the upcoming 2009 re valuation is that Saskatchewan will achieve market value in the province for residential and commercial properties. Some other types of property assessment, such as agricultural land and industrial properties, will continue to be based upon a regulated methodology. Municipal governments use taxable assessments (fair value assessments combined with the property classes and percentages of value set by the province), and establish local tax policies (mill rates/mill rate factors/minimum tax/base tax) based on their budget needs and calculate the tax owing by each property owner. Saskatchewan's property tax system recognizes a high degree of autonomy for municipalities to set local property taxes. Government Relations conducted a review and produced a report concerning the application of property tax tools in Saskatchewan dated January 2004, which can be found on our website.