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Saskatoon mayor says current budget process leads to 'scramble' ahead of council votes

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Mayor Charlie Clark started day three of Saskatoon's multi-year budget deliberations by suggesting changes to the city's budget process.

"I’ve been around the table for 17 years … and we are facing one of the tougher budgets — or the toughest budget we’ve ever faced," Clark said Thursday morning.

During the past two days, councillors made minimal progress to address the city's financial shortfall with a combined savings of $1.68 million.

Councillors are searching for savings to cover funding gaps of $21 million gap in 2024 and $18 million in 2025.

If councillors can't find further savings, property taxes would increase 6.59 per cent next year and 5.48 in 2025.

"We don’t always agree on everything on this council, but we’ve been able to work together through challenging times and have respectful debates," Clark said.

Clark mentioned his conversation with the mayor of Guelph, Ont. about its budget process.

In Guelph, the budget deliberations are split into two sessions. One session is for councillors to propose changes. Then, there's a two-week period for the changes to be developed into options. In Guelph's second budget session, councillors make their final decisions.

Clark says Guelph’s process makes sure everyone "fully understands" budget changes and can "fully digest them before having to vote."

Clark said Saskatoon councillors often "scramble" ahead of a vote.

"One of the things that makes our current budget process challenging is that element that we don't quite know what changes are going to be proposed until the very end," Clark told the chamber.

"I think it's worth looking to the future to look at, is there ways we can improve our budget process to help to make it smoother, and help take out that element of uncertainty around some of the votes."

Clark joked he hopes council can finalize the budget before Christmas Eve.

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