While city councillors approved a 5.56-percent property tax increase at budget time, Yellowknife residential property owners could now see taxes swell by more than nine percent this year.
Councillors are discussing the mill rate ratio, the means by which the property tax burden is divided among different types of property owners in the municipality.
Some Yellowknife business owners and industry representatives feel changes to mill rates over time have been unfair, increasingly placing greater burdens on businesses.
For the 2022 tax year, city staff recommended that councillors maintain the current commercial-residential mill rate ratio, which has remained at 1:2.26 since 2019.
The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce supported that option, asking only that any changes to mill rates not increase the proportion of property tax business owners have to pay relative to homeowners.
Last week, however, a majority of councillors voted in favour of reducing the commercial-residential mill rate ratio to 1:2.13, resulting in a 2.27-percent tax increase for commercial properties and a 9.04-percent increase for residential properties in 2022. (Following a city assessment, the 5.56-percent tax increase was reduced to 5.04 percent).
‘A crap soup and a crap sandwich’
A nine-percent tax hike for residents didn’t sit well with all councillors during a Monday afternoon meeting.
Shauna Morgan said that would be “a pretty tough pill to swallow” for residential property owners.
Steve Payne agreed, arguing that while businesses can pass additional costs on to consumers, that’s not an option for homeowners.
“We’ve got a crap soup and a crap sandwich and you’ve got your choice out of which one,” he said of the division of property tax increases.
Niels Konge, however, has long argued that the tax burden should be reduced for businesses. He said he supported the change to the mill rate ratio as some businesses “have been hit pretty hard” by the pandemic.
“I think that it’s time to try to stop the spread,” he said.
Mayor Rebecca Alty said while she did not initially vote in favour of changing the mill rate ratio, she stands behind the decision of council rather than going “back and forth all day” and making more work for city staff.
City councillors will formally vote on whether to accept the 1:2.13 commercial-residential mill rate ratio at their next regular meeting on May 24.