A joint University of Saskatchewan and City of Saskatoon research project funded by the Research Junction initiative will delve into potential property tax reforms and how to communicate them to the public.
Mike Jordan, chief of public policy and government relations for the city, said he can already see the direct applications this project could have.
“This research is really going to give us some insight into what may be possible going forward, and what may not be possible in terms of what the (public) tolerance and barriers are around using different revenue instruments,” he said.
Jordan and Dr. Yang Yang (PhD), an assistant professor with USask’s Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS), are receiving support for this research from the Research Junction initiative, which provides funding to joint City of Saskatoon-USask projects aimed at bettering the lives of Saskatoon residents.
Yang said that since the city receives “nearly half” of its operating revenue from property taxes, it’s important for residents to understand them as fully as possible.
And as the services that municipalities support and supply change over time — with added pressures including addressing climate change, keeping up with inflation, and funding essential services in a continually-expanding city — municipalities must adjust their revenue strategies to meet these new demands, Yang said.
“We think tax policy reforms are necessary to ensure that municipalities can meet all these new demands and challenges,” she said. “We’re hoping to use this project to provide a timely assessment of the public acceptance and support for proposed property tax policy changes.”
The research project will be conducted using surveys distributed to Saskatoon residents and other municipalities to gauge opinions regarding property tax and potential tax reforms.
Drawing on behavioural insights, this project will also create a communication plan to mitigate some of the challenges that come with these changes.
“We’re hoping to inform the development of targeted and effective communication strategies that could resonate better with residents about what our rationales are, and what could be missed opportunities, without reforming property tax policy,” she said.
Jordan said studying how to communicate any city tax changes to residents is critical to educate residents on where their tax is allocated.
Transparency on how any government spends income from residents is important, he said.
“I think we spend a lot of time communicating now on property tax … but are there any other insights we’re missing, that we haven’t really thought about?” he said.
Jordan lauded Yang and the JSGS researchers for tackling the issue from multiple angles and said the Research Junction projects have significant benefits for the City of Saskatoon.
“That’s what’s special about the JSGS school, is that they understand the research and the academic side, but also then what’s the implementation side of it? That’s sometimes where policy fails — there might be good ideas, but if you can’t implement them that’s where the roadblock comes in,” Jordan said. “(JSGS researchers) understand some of those implementation barriers we’re trying to overcome.”
This project is one of three recently awarded funding by the Research Junction initiative. Research Junction is a collaboration between the City of Saskatoon and USask’s Research Acceleration and Strategic Initiatives “to support the development of joint research projects that address contemporary urban issues for the benefit of Saskatoon residents.”
For more information, contact:
USask Media Relations