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Saskatoon reacts to the city’s final 2023 budget and property tax increase

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Saskatoon reacts to the city’s final 2023 budget and property tax increase
The chamber said there has been a 32-per cent increase in positions earning $100-200K, a 40-per cent increase in those earning $90-100K, and positions earning more than $200,000 has doubled since 2017 from nine to 20 – Dec 1, 2022

Saskatoon city council ended budget deliberations on Tuesday, what was supposed to be only day two of three. The final decision will see residents face a property tax increase of 3.93 per cent.

Back in 2021 when council discussed its multi-year budget, it originally decided on a 3.53-per cent property tax increase, but challenges such as inflation and COVID-19 recovery brought changes.

In his opening remarks on Monday, the city’s chief financial officer Clae Hack proposed a 4.38-per cent increase to property taxes.

“We’ve seen the impact of fuel, just fuel alone is a $5M impact on this budget. We know we have the policing pressures that we’re facing, and we debated that, together that adds to a $7M increase over what we projected,” said Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark at the end of council on Tuesday.

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A few key issues the city faced led to the proposed amount,

  • $4.1M in increased fuel costs
  • $2.5M in inflationary impacts
  • $1.5M in natural gas
  • $1.4M in additional police expenditures

Some smaller issues played a factor as well, such as the SPCA pound services and increased street light expenditures.

In order to reduce the property tax implications, council had to find ways to make up for the extra costs.

The main two ways ended up being a $0.10 decrease in fuel assumptions, and deferring Saskatoon Light and Power’s return on investment by $500,000.

More minor changes being reducing $83,600 from original expenditure of $167,200 for transit phase in for Aspen Ridge, and by taking $68,700 from the major special events reserve.

All of this helping lead to the eventual decrease from 4.38 per cent to a 3.93-per cent property tax increase.

The Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce expressed its concerns with the outcome. CEO Jason Aebig said he wishes council would’ve taken a different approach.

“Then really deferring or thinking about deferring the hiring or rehiring of about 30 positions which would’ve, at $75,000 per position base salary would’ve amounted to $2.25M which was exactly the gap that needed to be closed,” said Aebig.

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Aebig also said the total amount paid to city employees earning $50,000 or more in 2017 was $264M, and five years later in 2021, the number is up to $318M. The chamber also said there has been a 32-per cent increase in positions earning $100-200K, a 40-per cent increase in those earning $90-100K, and positions earning more than $200,000 has doubled since 2017 from nine to 20.

Chief Financial Officer Clae Hack said this budget council came up with is the best way to deal with the challenges the city faces.

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“We do our best to try to balance the services residents expect from us along with a reasonable property tax increase and through the debates the last couple of days I’m confident we got to that reasonable balance,” said Hack.

While Mayor Charlie Clark said he would’ve loved to have no property tax increase at all, the outcome is something he can live with.

“I think this is a good budget, it allows us to continue to provide the services our residents rely on, and we’ve been able to bring the tax increase below 4 per cent,” added Clark.

Hack also said he believes the decision made at council on Tuesday will help council moving into the next two-year budget cycle.

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