Saskatoon city council passes 2022/2023 budget
Residents will see property taxes increase by 3.86 per cent in 2022 and 3.53 percent in 2023.
It means the average Saskatoon homeowner will pay around $74 more in 2022 and $70 more the following year.
The increases are higher than those originally suggested by city administration in its proposed budget, 3.51 per cent in 2022 and 3.14 per cent in 2023.
"You know we make our sausage in public at the city level, this is a very deliberate process and a very transparent process and it shows the challenge of meeting all the demands of the city," Mayor Charlie Clark said as the meeting came to a close.
Over the course of three days of budget deliberations, presenters made pitches for funding. One proposal was to include snow grading on bike lanes. The current practice is not to grade bike lanes unless they're included on a "priority" street.
Ward 2 Coun. Hillary Gough was in favour of the idea.
“By not cleaning in the winter, we disconnect that network. That makes it often physically impossible to navigate the streets on a bike,” she said.
Ward 1 Coun. Darren Hill was against the proposal.
“Now is not the time to be adding new projects that are not requested by the citizens of Saskatoon,” Hill said.
Funding for snow grading on bike lanes was defeated, with most councillors and the mayor not supporting the idea.
However, council did approve multiple investments including a new transit service to north Kensington and Aspen Ridge, graffiti management, recreation and sports improvements as well as reconciliation, equity, diversity and inclusion programs.
The Saskatoon Police Service’s (SPS) operating budget has also been approved for the next two years, which will see it receive $119.7 million next year and $124.6 million in 2023. The budget includes resources to address the increase in calls for service with the addition of eight new patrol constables In 2022 and four the year after.
Clark said the approved tax rate is still one of the lowest in the last decade despite the economic challenges caused by COVID-19.
“I’m realizing that we have to do everything we can to keep the tax rate low, but if we don’t pay attention to some of the key issues we’re facing as a city, we won’t be competitive and we won’t be a city that has a good quality of life where everybody has the chance to succeed,” he told CTV News.
Ward 5 Coun. Randy Donauer, along with Hill and Ward 9 Coun. Bev Dubois voted against the budget as a whole.
Donauer said there could’ve been ways to pinch pennies like limiting the number of new hires.
“If we’re not going to cut, I think we could have at least held the line and operated the city next year with the same amount of resources that we had last year. I realize that there are some inflationary pressures and we’ve got some contract issues to deal with with our employees, but I think we could have honoured those and held the line on the rest.”
Meanwhile, Ward 7 Coun. Mairin Loewen said there is a gap in revenue and the services the city offers that needs to be made up.
“We spent a lot of time trying to make up gaps for the infrastructure deficit that the city has had for many years. We are making progress on roadways and so forth. What our administration was telling us yesterday was that to reduce the budget further, would cause us to lose ground and when we defer maintenance and defer investments in programs and services in the city, it almost always means bigger expenses down the road,” she said.
In addition to the property tax increase, utility fees for waster and wastewater usage will increase by 2.5 per cent in 2022 and 3.4 per cent in 2023.
Indoor leisure centre admission rates will also go up by two per cent in both 2022 and 2023.
Next year, council will have the chance to make changes to the 2023 budget if needed.