Moose Jaw City Council voted in favour of discontinuing the printing and mailing of property tax prepayment notices beginning in December during Tuesday night’s meeting.
Historically, city administration mails out notices to property owners to remind them of the discount period and the status of their property tax account.
Director of Financial Services Brian Acker explained that many people confuse the prepayment notice with their actual tax notice. He hopes discontinuing the prepayment notice will end the confusion.
“Many people get these prepayment notices and think it's their actual tax notice for the year. The tax notice is normally a bit higher because we’ll have the mill rate increase. So, we do spend an inordinate amount of time explaining to people that that was just a prepayment notice,” Acker explained.
He added that those on the monthly payment program will still get their prepayment notice to let them know about changes to their payments when taxes increase.
The discount period runs from January to March annually. The city gives a one per cent discount on the municipal portion of any property tax payment made during this time.
“One of the things with the physical notice is about 20 per cent of our taxpayers actually take advantage of that discount. So, the other 80 per cent get a prepayment notice in the mail and they really don’t utilize it. They just essentially throw it away,” Acker said.
Instead, the city is planning to roll out a communication campaign that would include putting notices on social media, the city’s website as well as other methods to remind property owners of the discount period.
City administration surveyed cities in the Government Financial Officers Association. They found only three out of 13 cities in Saskatchewan that offer an early payment discount on their property taxes, with Moose Jaw being one of them. None of the other two cities mail out notices but promote the program through social media.
“We will use a number of different channels to get our message out. One will simply be, obviously, this meeting today is the start of getting that message out. But we will also use a couple of different avenues of social media. We will use our website to get that information out and, as I mentioned, we’ll have our customer service representatives trained so that they’re able to answer any of those questions,” Acker said.
Because the city is discontinuing the prepayment notices, Acker said this does not mean they will be discontinuing the discount program.
According to the city, it costs about $11,900 each year to mail out the prepayment notices. Because there could be some costs to advertise the discount period, the city estimates that discontinuing the mailing of the notices would save between $9,000 to $10,000.
It was also noted that discontinuing the printing of the notices would be more environmentally friendly as it would reduce the amount of paper used.
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