SASKATOON -- After two days of virtual budget deliberations, city councillors and the mayor opted for several budget adjustments, which put next years property tax increase at 2.83 percent.

"It's the lowest tax increase since 2006 I understand,” said Mayor Charlie Clark. “It’s also the third lowest tax increase this century to recognize the extraordinary circumstances we’re in."

The biggest move came in the form of a ‘global adjustment’ expense reduction of nearly $2.6 million. City Administration says there are hopes for more assistance from other levels of government to offset the impact. Absent of that, if there is still a deficit at the end of 2021, the city will either have to find other ways of filling the hole or use reserves to balance the budget. 

Ward four city councillor Troy Davies said considering the situation, using reserves should not be out of the question

"The residents who live in our wards, and I have several of them in older neighbourhoods, some of them, for 50 years have been paying taxes and allowed our city to put reserves away,” Davies explained. “But times are tough. Today we're calling in a favour.”

Council also voted in favor of reducing the councillor and mayors travel budget and car allowance by a combined $71,000. A motion to slash $199,300 from a funding request by the Saskatoon Police Service was approved. Council also added $165,000 in spending including $65,000 for mowing berms and $100,000 for the innovative housing affordable program. 

"A lot of businesses and residents and seniors and people on fixed incomes are really concerned about their own finances and paying the bills, and people want to know the city is doing everything we can to find savings,” said Mayor Clark.

City administration revised the originally approved capital budget, lowering it by $10-million, which includes a new fire department training facility. Council also approved free parking on Saturdays from January through March, as part of a bid to help struggling businesses. The cost is covered through various reductions in reserve contributions so it does not impact the mill rate.

Last week, City Administration said the operating budget was facing a gap of nearly $21.8-million because of the pandemic. The shortfall would 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. Saskatoon Transit is projecting revenue to decrease by almost $6-million.