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Legislative Report (10 May 2006)

Legislative Report

10 May 2006

Government Short Changes School Divisions

Earlier this year, Premier Lorne Calvert descended on the community of Birch Hills to announce that his government would pick up more of the cost of education. As a result, the Premier said rural property tax payers would finally see some relief from the burden of the highest education property taxes in the nation. How hollow those words now ring today.

The NDP government’s latest budget has shortchanged school divisions across this province. This Monday, school divisions finalized their budgets. The resounding message is that because of the NDP’s failure to fund the increasing costs of education, the majority of school divisions across Saskatchewan have to make up the shortfall somewhere. And that somewhere is straight out of your pocket. So much for property tax relief.

Just last month, NDP Finance Minister Andrew Thomson told the Saskatchewan Legislature that “there is no reason that residents in…the former Sunrise School Division, including the city of Weyburn, should see any increase in their education property tax..."

It turns out, that wasn’t true. In the new South East Cornerstone School Division, education property taxes are going up between five and thirty per cent. In the city of Weyburn, where the Minister said property taxes would not go up, residents will see a five per cent hike in their education property taxes. Once again, the NDP has been caught not telling the truth.

In the Chinook School Division, which includes Swift Current and Maple Creek, education property taxes will increase between two and 38 per cent for most residents. Education property taxes in the Sun West School Division, which includes Biggar and Kindersley are going up between 4 and 18 per cent. In the Prairie South School Division, education property taxes are going up between 7 and 15 per cent for most residents. In the good Spirit School Division which includes Yorkton and Melville, education property taxes will go up by seven per cent on average.

In the case of the Regina public and separate school boards, as well as the North East School Division in the Melfort area, these boards are going into their reserves and are still forced to hike property taxes to cover the costs of education.

So, Lorne Calvert’s promise to cut property taxes is just one more in a long list of broken NDP promises. Now, the NDP Finance Minister is blaming the school boards. On Monday he told reporters that in the case of the South East Cornerstone Division, “They’ve made a political decision on the board to replenish their reserves.”

That’s ridiculous – I don’t know of any school division that would willingly choose to increase property taxes and cut teachers. And according to the Superintendent of Finance and Administration for the division, that was not the case. He recently told the Leader Post “We suffered a significant loss in provincial funding and there’s only one place to make that up.”

The minister’s comments have justifiably frustrated officials in these regions, especially the fact that he’s accusing them of hoarding money. If the minister wants to talk about hoarding money and replenishing reserves, he need only look in the mirror. After all, it was his NDP government that has socked away nearly $700 million dollars in its so-called rainy day Fiscal Stabilization Fund for use in the year leading up to the next provincial election. Most of this money came right from oil producing regions like South East Saskatchewan, where residents are now facing increased education property taxes all because the minister is hoarding money in his own reserves and failing to fully fund the increased costs of education.

It’s funny – Andrew Thomson didn’t bother to mention this hidden tax hike in his recent half-a-million dollar television ad campaign. Recently, a reporter asked Andrew Thomson why he had to appear in the NDP’s budget commercials. He said it was because “it’s my budget."

Mr. Thomson, like the NDP, has forgotten something very important. It’s not his budget. It’s not even his money. That money belongs to you, the people of Saskatchewan. 

If you have a question about this report or any other matter, just Contact Glen.

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