Phil Tank: The Saskatoon Council Wounded, But Couldn’t Defeat Budget Dragon

The measures that will be used to reduce next year’s property tax hike are temporary, but the city council’s big spending plans are looming.

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The key message to come from this year’s Saskatoon City Hall budget meeting is that the leverage is disappearing.

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These measures have traditionally been used to avoid raising property taxes and cutting services, according to Saskatoon Chief Financial Officer Clay Huck.

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Each year, city officials compile estimates to figure out how much it will cost the next year to run the city deficit-free and present it to politicians in November.

Politicians are using these numbers to find ways to ease the growing burden on property owners and renters. Last year, the council seemed oblivious to the financial challenges caused by the pandemic, with a notable exception when it raised proposed tax increases for 2022 and 2023.

So the city council is trying to portray itself as a bunch of heroes who cut the hike this year from the proposed 4.38% to 3.93%, while the same council raised it a year ago to 3.53% from the proposed 3.14%. remember that you did

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City Hall is also adding 78 new full-time employees, up from the originally proposed 60.

A combination of factors has left the city more than $10 million short of projected spending next year, primarily due to rising fuel costs and other inflation-related factors.

This increase was offset by nearly $8 million in additional revenue from state revenue sharing after the state expanded the state sales tax in the last budget.

But the city was still short and had to make a decision to avoid a 4.38% rise, the highest since 4.4% in 2019. $78.34 tax increase on $344,000 worth of homes) remains the highest tax increase since 2019.

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And options chosen by the City Council, after being proposed by city officials, are temporary, such as delaying the start of bus service to Aspen Ridge and delaying a reduction in the amount remitted to the operating budget from Saskatoon Light and Power. represents a measure.

In some respects, this represents normal operation seen during budget times.

But the council is planning some big changes starting next year that will cost Saskatoon taxpayers even more.

Starting next year, the city will roll out an organic waste collection program. That brings his new utility bill for the single-family home to $6.73 a month starting in May, and his total cost per household next year will be $53.84. This also gives him an estimated $3.92 million in funding, which will be used to sustain the new program.

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You may also have heard that City Hall wants to build a new arena and possibly a new convention center downtown.

Considering how cumbersome and controversial choosing the location of the new arena has proven to be, the funding is set to have a minimal impact on property taxes. Wait for the debate. Taxpayers are still paying to repay the money they borrowed to build these mega-projects.

The city’s debt is projected to reach $479 million in 2027, but that doesn’t include spending on new arenas.

Speaking of mega-projects, the Saskatoon Public Library, which is building a new downtown branch for $134 million, has raised property taxes by 5.67% next year, up from an original 3.78% approved last year. .

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Libraries make up a small portion of the property tax bill, about 6%, compared to City Hall’s 58%, but little by little, they’re making an impact on people at a time when many are struggling financially. increase.

The city also plans to introduce a revamped transportation system in 2026.

Meanwhile, income sources such as parking lots, parking tickets, recreation centers and transportation have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Even with less tax increases, these challenges remain.

Phil Tank is Digital Opinion Editor at Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

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Phil Tank: The Saskatoon Council Wounded, But Couldn’t Defeat Budget Dragon

Source link Phil Tank: The Saskatoon Council Wounded, But Couldn’t Defeat Budget Dragon

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