The City of Regina is projecting a revenue loss of $4.6 million as the effect of the 2017-18 provincial budget is annualized. The city anticipates revenue sharing grants will also be $2 million lower, a five per cent decrease over 2017. This means residents are going to have to dig deeper to maintain city services.
“The proposed 2018 budget maintains affordability. Regina has a history of reasonable mill rate increases that are among the lowest in Western Canada,” Chris Holden, city manager, said.
“In 2018, we are recommending a mill rate increase of 3.86 per cent, plus one per cent dedicated to the Residential Roads Renewal Program.”
There is also the annual 0.45 per cent increase to pay for the new Mosaic Stadium.
The average homeowner with a $350,000 home will pay an additional $7.70 each month, or $92.40 annually. This property tax levy makes up 53 per cent of the city’s $443 million general revenue fund.
Mayor Michael Fougere said he would like to see this amount be decreased when it is presented to council. However, he would not say how big a reduction he is comfortable with.
“I want to have a conversation with members of council and the public to see what they think. We’re going to make a decision based on input from taxpayers,” Fougere said.
The road renewal increase is part of a multi-year program of fixed annual mill rate increases. City council will debate the budget at a special council meeting on February 27, which starts at 5:30 p.m.
“We only have one taxpayer in the city, and they’ve gone through a significant tax increase by the province last year. We’re seeing this now, so what’s the right mix? I don’t have the answers today, but my view is we should be trying to reduce this,” Fougere said.
A utility rate increase also took effect Thursday. Water, wastewater and drainage fees all climbed two per cent. The city says this is the lowest increase in a decade.
The average cost is expected to be an additional $2.70 per month for an average household.
Last year, the city proposed a total 4.18 per cent mill rate increase. City council eventually settled on a 3.99 per cent increase.
Where are your tax dollars going?
A vast majority of the $443 general revenue fund goes back into direct services the city provides. Close to $14 million is for overhead costs like running city hall and paying staff.
In the $132 million infrastructure budget, $18 million is earmarked for street infrastructure renewal, $9.7 million for the Residential Road Renewal Program, $4.9 million for bridge renewal, $11.9 million for a new waste management centre and $12.4 million for a transit fleet maintenance centre.
Converting the old STC Depot into a new police headquarters is also part of the infrastructure budget. Planning, designing and building is expected to cost $12 million.
Police and fire are receiving a combined $4.3 million increase — $2 million for police and $2.3 million for fire. Part of this includes wage increases.
“It’s a priority of council, safe communities are very, very important for us. That’s one that taxpayers and ratepayers expect to see,” Fougere said.
“Residents want good value for their property tax dollars. The city has worked diligently to find over $9 million in ongoing savings over the last 12 months,” Holden said. “The proposed 2018 budget continues to invest in key community priorities, including a $3 million in annual contribution to capital and a $4.3 million increase for Regina Police Service and Fire and Protective Services.”
Holden said that challenges associated with austerity measures include hiring freezes and travel restrictions for out-of-province conferences.
Holden acknowledged that calling this tax increase affordable can be a sensitive topic, but he pointed to property tax increases in Saskatoon, 4.7 per cent, and Swift Current, 13 per cent.