Moose Jaw City Council re-appointed Western Municipal Consulting (WMC) Ltd. as the city's board of revision during their meeting last night.
But it was not unanimous as councillors Jamey Logan and Kim Robinson voted opposed.
In 2022, the city moved away from the local Board of Revision and contracted Western Municipal Consulting as an independent board. Western Municipal Consulting is a certified Board of Revision with the Provincial of Saskatchewan.
City Clerk Tracy Wittke explained it wasn’t a matter of money as much as a struggle to get people to sit on the local board, especially now that the board needs to be certified by the province.
“People were just telling us that they didn’t have the time to take the 20-hour training to sit on the board,” Wittke said.
The city had received feedback from appellants with concerns about communication between Western Municipal Consulting and the appellants.
City manager Maryse Carmichael, the city clerk and assistant city clerk met with Western Municipal Consulting virtually, including their CEO and Board Secretary, to address the concerns.
According to city administration, WMC agreed that improvements were needed when notifying and communicating with appellants. WMC will now follow up by telephone if a virtual acceptance of a hearing invite is not received. Those changes were to take place for the 2023 assessment appeals that closed on Dec. 28.
The city also received feedback about the number of people who attend appeal hearings. WMC told city administration that "it is common" having lawyers, agents and the Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency (SAMA) bring observers made up of personnel or staff for training purposes to attend hearings. WMC added that it is only the Board of Revision panel of three members that make any decisions with support from the Board Secretary.
Logan said most of his concerns were addressed through the virtual meeting, but he was still a bit leery.
“Hopefully, they follow through. I see that a number of the concerns were addressed virtually in a meeting and so hopefully moving forward these concerns will be addressed and the citizens of Moose Jaw will be happier with, maybe not the results, but at least the process,” he said.
Wittke said, when they first started the process, WMC and NorSask Board Services were the only two available and NorSask was not interested as they were too busy with clients in Northern Saskatchewan.
She said this time around, they looked at the rates of other services and WMC was the best deal.
“We did look at the centralized boards and their rates were much higher than what Western Municipal Consulting was looking at,” said Wittke.
“We also did contact a couple of other boards that are certified that were on the list that are attachments to this report, and they were not interested in providing services to the City of Moose Jaw.”
According to Wittke, the boards contacted only serve their adjacent rural municipalities and villages and deal mostly with agriculture and residential properties. Both boards have dealt with less than a few appeals annually, a volume much smaller than Moose Jaw, and most are addressed through an agreement to adjust.
The city had budgeted $45,000 for the 2024 Board of Revision. WMC fees include a $250 per year subscription, a $50 hourly staff rate for the secretary and a $90 hourly rate for board members.
Robinson voiced concerns that there are cheaper options available to the city.
“I think it’s another case of us taking the path of least resistance. There’s a method or there’s a way that we could save some money, but again, we’re going to take that principle of the easy way down,” said Robinson.
The Board of Revision is a quasi-judicial, independent, board that hears property assessment appeals to determine if errors have been made in the valuation or classification of a property.
During the assessment roll from May 1 to 30, 2023, the city received 138 appeals. Three were dismissed and 135 are active. The supplemental assessment roll opened on Nov. 27 and closed on Dec. 28 with three commercial property appeals.