Councillors defend City’s commitment to seniors during Monday meeting

During a discussion of 2022 property tax abatements during Monday’s Executive Committee meeting, Coun. Blake Edwards wanted to address some of the criticisms directed at the City from community members that believe Prince Albert is not doing enough to look after their elderly citizens.

Edwards specifically referenced the Council suggested Care Home Abatement that resulted in an abatement amount of $12,307.70 in 2022 for various private care homes in Prince Albert.

“I want to point out that this is just one other area where Council are taking care of our seniors in the community and that we do care for our seniors,” Edwards said.

In 2018, City Council narrowly passed a vote to reclassify private care homes in Prince Albert under their own special sub-class and allowing them to be taxed at a lower rate than other businesses after the provincial government changed its policies to classify private care homes as commercial properties, rather than residential.

This change in legislation would have caused an increase of upwards of $100,000 in annual taxes to some care homes in Prince Albert, forcing them to drive up rent prices by $100 to $200 a month and directly impacting some of the City’s most vulnerable people, seniors.

“We can’t compare this business of a private care home to a business like McDonald’s,” said Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick, one of the original movers of the motion in 2018. “It’s not the same and therefore shouldn’t be taxed the same.”

Ogrodnick said the City needs to make sure that the private care homes continue to exist because there are not enough public accommodations for seniors in Prince Albert.

When the motion was first brought to Council several years ago, people involved in all areas of the care homes were reaching out to Council to share the issues that would arise by approving the province’s recommendation.

Edwards said he and a few other councillors consulted with a number of private care homes in Prince Albert that said they had to raise rental prices to pay for the skyrocketed tax increase. Residents were also calling him to explain that their elderly family members that had no means of making more income couldn’t afford the increase in rent.

Terra Lennox-Zepp, Councillor for Ward 2, suggested that instead of looking at it as a sudden and unexpected increase in taxes, it can be seen as private care homes having received a long-term abatement until the province’s change in policy. She also mentioned that the City does not require the tax abatement for private care homes to flow down to its tenants.

“Tell me, what business in Prince Albert can afford a $100,000 tax increase in one year?” asked Ogrodnick. “What business can afford that without passing it on to its consumers and in this case, its residents?”

The Ward 5 councillor said he’s happy with Council’s original decision to classify private care homes in their own category where they are taxed only slightly higher than a residential property.

“It would be wonderful to have spaces in our city for every single senior citizen publicly funded but that’s not the reality,” added Orgodnick. “And until we get there, we have to make sure that our seniors are taken care of.”

Photo has been updated per a Jan. 13 update.