City of Regina plans to use reserves to buy STC depot
The Regina Police Service’s planned move into the old Saskatchewan Transportation Company’s (STC) bus depot’s funding plan is up for discussion at city council’s executive committee meeting Wednesday. City administration is recommending council use reserves to cover the $37 million move and renovation.
“This gift has dropped right into our lap, and it’s something we want to take advantage of right away,” Mayor Michael Fougere said.
“This is our most pressing infrastructure need in our city now that we’ve got through other projects.”
The plan involves using $18.4 million from the general reserve fund and $18.6 from the asset revitalization reserves. The second account is for refurbishing city property, such as the extensive renovations that will be need to convert the bus depot into a police headquarters.
Administration estimates that using these funds will reduce the general reserve to $3 million in five years. The asset revitalization reserve will either be emptied or have a negative balance by 2019.
Fougere said moving in this direction will remove the need to a property tax rate adjustment to pay for the purchase, and these one-time expenditures are exactly what reserves are for.
“There’s always risks in everything we do, but when we found out that by purchasing this building we could save about $100 million compared to a brand new, purpose built building; that is an opportunity that we didn’t want to pass up,” Fougere said.
Canadian Taxpayers Federation Prairie director Todd MacKay is in favour of the plan being presented to the executive committee.
“Getting a facility in a unique situation with the STC building, that’s an opportunity to save money over the long term,” he said.
However, MacKay urged short-term caution if city council ultimately decides to dip into the reserves.
“Things happen every year that are unexpected. Those unexpected things are frankly expected in terms that you need to be prepared for them,” MacKay said.
“On the other hand, you have to look at the long term and make sure our police officer shave the support and the facilities they need.”
According to city administration the total reserve balance at the end of 2016 was $198 million. This amount is spread across multiple accounts.
Fougere said that if this plan is approved and the need for reserve money arises council will make that decision when the time comes.
“If something unforeseen happens we will talk about it in a public forum at executive committee and city council so people know exactly what we’re going to do,” Fougere said.
“What we will not do is rely on mill rate increases to fund this project.”
Executive committee will discuss the purchase plan during Wednesday’s meeting. The decision will then be forwarded onto city council for final approval at their November 27 meeting.
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