One business owner says he is ‘disappointed’ with Moose Jaw City Council’s decision on Monday night to recommend a secondary audit for the Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency’s (SAMA) commercial property assessments.  

Bernie Dombowsky is the owner of Charlotte’s Catering and has been spearheading a property assessment watchdog group in the city.  

If a secondary audit moves forward, it would be conducted by SAMA’s independent Quality Assurance Division. Dombowsky felt having SAMA audit their own work is inappropriate.  

“Basically, they're asking SAMA to judge themselves whether they've done things right or not. And from all our previous meetings, they're adamant that things are right,” Dombowsky said.  

Dombowsky also raised concerns about how long a secondary audit would take as it could mean another year of high tax rates for small business owners.  

“I would like to see them put a lot more pressure for things to be changed. The 2023 tax roll is coming out and things have to change before those businesses are assessed the same as they were last year,” he said.  

According to provincial legislation, tax rolls must be prepared on or before May 1.  

Dombowsky’s main concern is with SAMA’s cap rate model used for assessing property value.  

Dombowsky noted at a previous city council meeting that there were 17 different groups in Moose Jaw that had cap rates ranging from 3.09 per cent to 9.3 per cent. When it comes to property taxes, the higher the cap rate percentage, the lower you pay in taxes.   

His business fell under general retail with a cap rate of 3.09 per cent, while medical offices, law offices, high-rise offices and funeral homes had a cap rate of 9.3 per cent.   

Dombowsky shared a few examples including a law office on High Street compared to a smaller vacant retail space right across the street.   

The vacant space was assessed with a total market rent of $16,824 and an assessed value of $600,200. That building saw its property taxes increase by $3,701 from 2020 to 2021. The property taxes were approximately $11,058 in 2021.   

Meanwhile, the law office across the street was given a total market rent of $62,106 and an assessed value of $571,000. Their property tax decreased by $7,000 to $10,354 in 2021.  

Dombowsky said he’s talked to business owners whose taxes have increased by more than double what they paid the previous year and others who are paying their taxes with pension money. 

He said The Shop downtown pays 96 per cent of its rent market rate in taxes, while an investment broker a few blocks away only pays 16 per cent of its rent market rate. 

The City of Moose Jaw is strongly encouraging the Quality Assurance Division to investigate if a secondary audit is warranted in good faith that Quality Assurance is independent of the property assessments. The city contracts SAMA to do the property assessments. 

City council does not have the authority to request or trigger a secondary audit.