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'Missed opportunity': Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce says city could have saved millions by cutting new hires


The City of Saskatoon could have saved millions of dollars in its 2023 budget by restricting new hires, according to the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce.

Jason Aebig, CEO of the chamber, said he’s disappointed city councillors didn’t debate employment expenses further.

“Unfortunately, we didn't get there and that's disappointing,” Aebig told CTV News.

The number of city staff, including police, will increase by 77 full-time equivalent employees next year — some of the positions are funded by the province.

Cutting 30 of those positions would save $2.25 million, according to Aebig.

Council found savings in other ways, largely by adjusting its forecasted fuel costs.

Aebig said council’s strategy of finding small savings here and there is inefficient.

“It’s like vacuuming the rug when the house is on fire,” Aebig said, referring to council’s debate of reducing landfill hours.

“When we’re talking about trying to find savings, we need to look at the meatiest part of the operating budget. How come, when it comes to hiring or rehiring positions, that question is untouchable? To avoid having that discussion is a missed opportunity.”

Mayor Charlie Clark says each new employee being added is needed, specifically the new transit workers.

“We need to have some additional transit staff in the mechanic area, so we do not end up in the situation where we don’t have buses,” Clark told reporters after the budget deliberations.

The one councillor who voted against the 2023 budget

The city’s spending choices determined the finalized property tax rate.

Last year, council pre-approved a 3.53 per cent hike. The administration recommended increasing it to 4.38 per cent because of inflationary pressures and new costs. Eventually, council brought the property tax increase down to 3.93 per cent.

The average homeowner will pay $6.53 more per month.

Ward 1 Councillor Darren Hill was the only person who voted against the 2023 budget.

“I wasn't going to support anything above and beyond the 3.53 that we had identified last year in the multi-year budget process,” Hill said.

“We should have done everything within our power to stay at 3.53.”

Hill echoed Aebig’s idea to focus on hiring costs to save.

“I can't remember the last time that we've done a big dive right into every single operating line, and every single full-time equivalent employee that we have, and evaluate their position, their responsibilities and see if it's still warranted,” Hill said.

City hall is continuing with its multi-year budgets. Clark said the administration will soon start crunching numbers for the 2024 and 2025 cycle. Top Stories

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