New Saskatoon city budget proposes nearly 7% property tax increase over 2 years

Click to play video: 'New Saskatoon city budget proposes nearly 7% property tax increase over 2 years' New Saskatoon city budget proposes nearly 7% property tax increase over 2 years
WATCH ABOVE: For the first time, Saskatoon has created a budget for two years at the same time – Oct 30, 2019

The City of Saskatoon unveiled its budget for 2020 and 2021. It includes increasing the municipal property tax by 3.23 per cent in the first year and 3.54 per cent in the second.

That’s equivalent to approximately $60.95/year in 2020 and $66.83/year in 2021, based on a home assessed at $371,000 in 2016.

“I know [those numbers aren’t] the ideal property tax target for everybody but we are faced with many challenges in maintaining services,” said Clae Hack, the interim chief financial officer of the city.
Story continues below advertisement
Saskatoon’s proposed city budget calls for property tax increases of more than $60. City of Saskatoon / Supplied

READ MORE: Saskatoon wards being reorganized before municipal election

The proposed tax increase would help fill a gap between the city’s revenue and what is needed to maintain the current services and projects. According to the budget document, called the “2020-2021 Preliminary Detailed Operating Capital Budget,” the city’s expenditures are $19.78 million less than what is needed.

“We have increasing expenditures from growth and inflation pressures,” Hack said.

“Our operating revenues are not always keeping up with the growth and expenditures,” he added.

A municipal property tax increase of nearly 8 per cent (3.94 per cent and 4.17 per cent, respectively) is needed to raising all of the required funds and was originally proposed by city administration.

Story continues below advertisement

City council rejected those amounts in June and directed administration to limit the increase.

READ MORE: Proposed indicative property tax increase rejected by Saskatoon city committee

The proposed budget, made public on Wednesday, does that through several measures, like delaying the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit System by one year and allocating $10 million from the federal gas tax towards the future curbside organics collection program.

The budget shows the city’s largest expenditure, almost 60 per cent in both years, is allocated towards staff pay. That includes scheduled pay increases, including those delineated in collective bargaining agreements, and hiring 98 new full-time employees that the city says is needed over the next two years.

Seven of those new staff will be members of the Saskatoon Police Services, three of whom will be constables.

“As the city continues to grow, as we add more park spaces and as we add more roadways, we need more staff in order to maintain those,” Hack said.

“Without adding those employees we’d be stretching current staff thinner, possibly impacting services.”

READ MORE: Report on Saskatoon Freeway draws criticism from residents

Story continues below advertisement

The document shows that approximately 23 cents of every dollar from the increased municipal tax goes towards the police, with 18 cents going towards transportation and 12 cents going towards fire services. The remainder will go towards nine other departments.

According to the budget document, 23 cents from every dollar goes towards the Saskatoon Police Services. City of Saskatoon / Supplied

City council is scheduled to discuss the budget at the end of November. At that time it can direct the administration to make further changes.

If the council votes to pass the budget, only the 2020 numbers would be approved — the 2021 projections would be agreed to in principle. Hack noted that council could direct administration to try to reduce costs even further.

“We’ll see how that unfolds at deliberations,” he said.

City elections are scheduled for fall 2020. A new city council could also alter the 2021 budget.

Story continues below advertisement

This is the first time the city has created a budget for two years at the same time.

Sponsored content