A petition is being taken up in Saskatchewan seeking tax exempt status for licenced day cares in the province.
Earlier this year, the board of Play Fair Daycare in Moosomin approached Moosomin town council for a tax concession.
After lengthy debate, council turned down the request.
Play Fair Daycare is assessed as a commercial building, and faces a property tax bill this year of $17,651.26.
Daycares elsewhere in the province face a wide array of municipal tax situations. Some are assessed commercially, some are assessed as residential properties, and some, located in schools or churches, are tax exempt.
In Alberta, Manitoba, and New Brunswick, licenced day care centres are tax exempt, and in British Columbia and Ontario, day care centres are taxed as residential properties, not commercial.
Play Fair Daycare director Terri Lowe said the petition drive started with a group of day cares in Regina.
“Some of the day cares in Regina that were being taxed as residential were reassessed and now they are being taxed as commercial. So some of the day cares that were paying $3,000 or $4,000 are now paying $12,000, plus not all of the day cares are being taxed. The ones in the schools aren’t being taxed. There’s just a huge inconsistency of who is being taxed.
“We have tried in Moosomin to have council look at our taxes. We are non-profit, so we have to come up with $17,000 a year that could be going back into the program. Every month we have to put $1,400 aside so that at the end of the year we have that money, but we could be using that money. It’s a lot of money to come up with.”
She said directors of several Regina day cares got together and began the petition drive.
“We have petitions at the day care for people to sign, board members have taken them out, the staff have taken them out.
“I have to have them back in by Oct. 10. They have to have them in their office by Oct. 14.”
How big a difference would it make for Play Fair Daycare if it didn’t have the annual tax bill?
“It would make a huge difference,” says Lowe. “That money could go back into our program or to the facilities. We could upgrade materials and equipment, add materials, it could go toward professional development for the staff, education for the staff. We’re going on the ninth year in this building, so we’re looking at huge maintenance costs.”
Play Fair Daycare serves 150 children. “When we moved over there we had 41 spaces, and now we’re at 75,” says Lowe. “Our enrolment is 150 between part-time, casuals, and full-time. We have a lot of kids in there.
“We’re a huge part of this community, and we have a one-and-a-half to two-year wait list. We need to keep it going, but if we can’t pay our taxes . . .”
Lowe said she is hearing a lot of supportive comments when explaining the petition to people. “Just about everybody is more than willing to sign it,” she said. “When they hear what we’re paying for taxes, there are a lot of jaws that drop.”
She said she is hopeful the petition drive will have an impact.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this will make the government think about it,” she said. “We’re getting a lot of signatures here, and I think they’re getting a lot of signatures across the province.”
The petition reads:
We, the undersigned residents of the province of Saskatchewan, wish to bring to your attention the following:
• Across Saskatchewan licensed, non-profit Childcare Centre’s are taxed inconsistently;
• Many of our licensed, non-profit Childcare Centres pay commercial property taxes. This is not done in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, BC and New Brunswick;
• Childcare is essential to the economy, yet most Centres struggle to balance their budgets. This issue threatens both the number of childcare spaces and the quality of care;
• Quality childcare has an enormous positive impact on a child’s future outcomes and yields high rates of economic return;
• Childcare Centres are institutions of early learning and childhood development. It is appropriate that they have the same tax treatment as schools.
We, in the prayer that reads as follows, respectfully request that the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan:
• Recognize that licensed, non-profit childcare Centres provide programs that are foundational to a healthy society by including them in the Saskatchewan Education Act.
• Exempt all licensed, non-profit childcare centres in Saskatchewan from property tax through changes to the appropriate legislation.