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Dealing with deficit will not include further tax increases: City of Saskatoon

Saskatoon city councillors approve more money for road repairs, transit fare increase also approved during first day of budget deliberations.
The City of Saskatoon said it will look at making adjustments to its 2021 operating and capital budgets to make up for any shortfalls not covered by relief packages. File / Global News

The City of Saskatoon said it will not rely on further tax increases to make up any deficit to the city’s budget due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the city will look at making adjustments to its 2021 operating and capital budgets to make up for any shortfall not covered by relief packages.

READ MORE: City of Saskatoon facing up to $42.9 M deficit in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic

“We will be using a combination of spending reductions and utilization of the city’s stabilization reserves to offset a significant portion of the deficit,” said city manager Jeff Jorgenson.

“The strategy does not rely on a further tax increase to address this deficit. We will continue discussions with other orders of government on possible assistance.”

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The COVID-19 pandemic has left the city facing a few potential deficit scenarios, from $20.2 million to just under $43 million for 2020, according to a city report published Friday.

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The scenarios depend on when restrictions are lifted and how quickly services like transit, which make the city money, are running back to normal.

READ MORE: A timeline of the novel coronavirus in Saskatchewan

The news comes after city council endorsed a plan on Monday to maintain core services and continue budgeted construction projects for 2020.

“We need to keep city assets in shape,” said Mayor Charlie Clark.

“We’re looking at some $390 million in financial activity to keep the economy going and businesses being able to hire people.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan to start reopening from the coronavirus pandemic on May 4

However, that doesn’t include the lead line replacement project.

Terry Schmidt, the transportation and construction general manager for the city, said that will be deferred to later in the year or to 2021.

“We will take a look later this summer to see how people may be adjusting to the pandemic, and make a determination of whether it makes sense to proceed with the lead line replacement program,” Schmidt said.

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“If it’s not possible, we will defer until next year.”

One service that won’t be affected is the annual spring street sweeping program.

The program is starting late this year due to the late spring melt, city officials said.

They added it is also delayed due to different operating processes due to COVID-19.

Street sweeping is expected to be completed by July, a month later than normal.

— With files from Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi