The City of Moose Jaw is scrambling to find another $3.7 million because of provincial budget cuts.
“It’s certainly a blow to where we were at,” Moose Jaw Coun. Dawn Luhning said. “Three and a half million dollars for Moose Jaw is a 13 to 14 per cent tax increase, so these are big numbers for these urban municipalities. It’s a tough pill to swallow right now, and I think we’re all still in shock.”
“We reckon at the present time, ourselves and the City of Yorkton on a per capita basis are the most severely impacted communities in the province,” city manager Matt Noble said.
The one per cent increase in PST will cost the city about a million dollars. The loss of grants-in-lieu total approximately $2.3 million.
“This is money that these urban municipalities have received for decades,” Luhning said. “As much as the premier and his ministers want to say they’d told us about the grants-in-lieu, they told us everything was on the table. Maybe that included grants-in-lieu, but they should have tried us to give us a heads up, so that we could have been prepared.”
“These are unforeseen changes that have been presented to us, and we’re obviously going to be sharpening our pencils,” Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie said.
Moose Jaw also saw a half a million dollar shortfall because it over estimated its revenue sharing.
“We were expecting that the census numbers were going to be based on 2011 and that wasn’t so. As a result, were left with a $510,000 shortfall which equates to a two per cent tax increase,” Tolmie said.
Noble said there’s still uncertainty around the full impact of the provincial budget.
“To be honest, we’re not entirely sure we understand all of the numbers yet,” Noble said.
Moose Jaw still hadn’t passed this year’s budget. Tolmie said that might have turned out to be a good thing.
“We’ve been going through it line by line, and one of the criticisms we’ve been receiving is that it’s been taking its time,” Tolmie said. “But I think in a way, it’s benefited us. The door hasn’t been closed, and we can actually deal with this now.”
City council still isn’t sure how it will tackle the budget shortfall.
“The problem we have is there’s only two things we can do: raise taxes or cut services, and neither one of them are good options,” Luhning said.
“We’re working really hard to overcome the infrastructure deficit,” Tolmie said. “We have to think of the future. What are we going to invest in now. What are we going to do: are there cost savings. We’re going to be looking at all aspects to provide the right level of service for the citizens of Moose Jaw.”
Council is hoping to pass this year’s budget before May.