City administration proposes budget that holds the line on property taxes despite impact from COVID-19
SASKATOON -- Saskatoon's budget for 2021 will be up for discussion next week by the mayor and councillors.
On Wednesday, the city announced its proposed budget and property tax hike for next year.
And there is plenty of focus on the impact of COVID-19.
The city is maintaining the original property tax increase of 3.87 per cent, which was approved last November. That's despite a $21.76 million gap from the original budget, mostly from the impact of COVID-19.
Administration is proposing using $19 million in federal Safe Restart funding to help make up the difference.
In addition to the federal funding, there will be $2.7 million in reduced expenses in the form of less training and travel, reducing fuel costs and discretionary hiring restrictions to help preserve the original property tax hike proposal.
There is also some assumed risk in the budget. For example, a report says snow removal costs from the recent large storm will bleed into 2021. Those costs could still be absorbed into the 2021 budget and there is still the possibility of more federal assistance.
If there is still a deficit at the end of 2021, then the plan would be to use reserves to balance the budget.
Chief Financial Officer Kerry Tarasoff says they did not want to have to cut services or increase the property tax burden.
COVID-19 is expected to hurt transit revenue by almost $6 million and there will be additional expenditures for cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment.
There is extra money in the police budget for five special constables.
City administration says there is still a lot of uncertainty. Many of the assumptions include residents eventually going back to fully reusing services like transit and leisure centres.
The proposed budget still needs to be approved by City Council next week.