Saskatoon City Council discusses financial projections on first day of 2021 budget talks
SASKATOON -- Saskatoon city council heard budget presentations from several organizations during day one of deliberations on the 2021 city budget.
TCU Place, Sasktel Centre and Remai Modern all presented tier budgets for next year, with TCU Place forecasting a deficit of $2.1-million while Sasktel Centre is expected to operate in the red by $1.6-million. Both controlled corporations plan to cover the shortfalls with their own resources or reserves.
Remai Modern’s budget for 2021 projects a surplus of just over $158,000 pending confirmation of City of Saskatoon Building and Operating subsidies.
The Saskatoon Public Library budget was also presented. The proposed increase of $1.27 million for 2021 includes $640,000 for the new central library reserve.
The Budget for the Saskatoon Police Service calls for an increase of 4.74 percent over the 2020 budget. It includes the addition of five special constables.
The overall proposed budget for the City included a property tax increase of 3.87 percent. But some councillors expressed a desire to reduce the millrate.
“A year ago before any pandemic we forecasted a 3.87 percent increase. Now that were in the midst of a pandemic, the public sees that we haven’t moved off that at all. And I don’ think that’s palatable,” said Ward 5 Councillor Randy Donauer.
Donauer pressed administration on what could be done to lower the millrate by one percent.
Chief Financial Officer Kerry Tarasoff said lowering the millrate by one percent would have an impact of $2.56-million.
Donauer indicated that if the city could not find more savings, that it should look at how it could use it’s reserves to lower the property tax burden.
“I actually admire the system of reserves that we have but reserves are there for a reason. And if a global pandemic isn’t a time to dig into the savings account then I don’t know what is,” Donauer said.
Councillor Bev Dubois also said her goal was to find a way to reduce the millrate.
Ward 7 Councillor Mairin Loewen asked administration about whether city council’s budget for travel or training had be adjusted.
Administration said $3,000 has been reduced from the councillors budget on training but the travel aspect had not been changed.
Loewen said she would be bringing a motion forward on that Thursday.
Last week, City Administration said the operating budget was facing a gap of nearly $21.8-million because of the pandemic. The shortfall is slated to be covered using just over $19-million in federal funding and by finding $2.7-million in other savings.
COVID-19 is expected to impact revenue on several budget lines including Saskatoon Transit which is projecting a revenue decrease by almost $6-million.
City council could still ask for changes to the budget to lower the property tax burden.
Budget deliberations continue Thursday afternoon.