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Saskatoon city council approves plan for kids to ride buses for free

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Children in Saskatoon are one step closer to riding city buses for free.

During budget deliberations on Friday, councillors agreed to eliminate fares for kids under 13 beginning September 2024.

According to administration, the new rule won't impact transit revenue.

Regina eliminated child fares last year and found no negative financial impacts, according to a city of Saskatoon report. Regina found the fare elimination lead to more kids taking the bus, accompanied by fare-paying adults.

Mayor Charlie Clark told the chamber he consulted his daughter about information about school identification cards.

Clark read out his text exchange with his daughter, where Clark explained he was using his daughter's information to help make transit decisions.

"She said, 'Whoop. That's cray cray. I made a difference in the city!' Because she gave us some information," Clark said.

The chamber burst into laughter.

"Anyway, that's not a question or comment. It's just the funny things that can happen," Clark said, laughing.

Councillors asked administration to report back on the "operational details and implication plan for the elimination of child fares," which will include the cut-off age for children.

As part of transit budget discussions, city councillors voted to shift $250,000 of transit revenue to general revenue to marginally lower the property tax rate.

Saskatoon city councillors have set a record for the longest budget meetings.

Budget deliberations have never gone longer than three days, according to a city spokesperson.

The 2024-2025 budgets were supposed to be finalized Thursday, but conversations have extended to Friday.

Councillors have found $4.5 million in savings in the multi-year budget.

If councillors can't find further savings, property taxes would increase 5.94 per cent next year and 5.42 per cent in 2025 — according to the latest numbers presented by the chief financial officer on Thursday evening.  

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