Property taxes to rise for roads and increased police budget
A tax hike is on the way for Saskatoon home owners.
City council approved a 7.43 per cent property tax increase at its 2014 budget meeting, which ran Tuesday and Wednesday.
A homeowner whose property is valued at the market average $325,000 will pay about $108 more per year in 2014.
A majority of the increase will be put towards road maintenance, snow and ice removal, and street sweeping while another large portion will be go toward increasing the police budget. The remainder of the hike will allow Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services as well as civic services to increase their budgets.
"In 20 years of budgets I cannot recall us ever doing a tax increase of 7 per cent," Mayor Don Atchison said following the budget meeting.
The road levy increases, which were passed Tuesday, will be used to hire more workers to patch potholes and clear snow, to provide two city-wide snow clearings, to improve street sweeping during the spring and to better regulate street cleanings.
The Saskatoon Police Service budget increase was passed Wednesday.
The budget increase for the police service will fund operating costs of its new headquarters, new equipment and the hiring of seven new full-time staff including five patrol constables.
Police Chief Clive Weighill said the ratio of officers to residents in Saskatoon is below the national average. The city has 191 officers for every 100,000 residents, he said. The national average is 199 per 100,000.
He also argued the number of missing persons reports last year were too much for just one staff member.
“We only have one person coordinating all these files now,” Weighill said.
The police will use the increased funds to hire an additional missing persons coordinator.
Weighill said the increased police budget was necessary to keep up with Saskatoon’s growing population.
“We’ve made a big, big bite into crime but we can’t let up on what we’re doing right now,” he said.
Heading into the budget meeting Tuesday, the proposed increase to property taxes was 7.26 per cent.
The number temporarily rose by 0.3 per cent — or an additional $4.34 for the average home owner — Tuesday when councillors decided to put more money into building sound walls. The hike settled at 7.43 per cent after city staff found savings through Saskatoon Light and Power’s rate structure.
Other budget numbers approved during the two-day meeting included $471,000 to improve the city’s website, $1 million to help with Gordie Howe Bowl upgrades, $150,000 for a service review, and $1.4 million for 480 affordable housing units.
Council also voted to increase the Meewasin Valley Authority’s budget by $27,000, which did not affect the mill rate.