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Saskatoon projects $13M in surpluses, could the money go to taxpayers?

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After lengthy budget talks last week, where city councillors spent nearly 30 hours searching for savings, there's a new twist.

The City of Saskatoon is anticipating a $3 million operating surplus and a $10.9 utility surplus at the end of this year.

The financial boost is attributed to stronger revenues in wastewater and water services, more people riding the bus — increasing transit revenue projections — and savings on snow removal this season.

The city also found savings in deferred hiring, training costs and the closure of the Harry Bailey Aquatic Centre.

Coun. Darren Hill wants taxpayers to benefit from the extra money.

Hill suggests the $10.9 million surplus associated with Saskatoon Light and Power be re-invested into the infrastructure, and the surplus from the other utilities should go to residents.

"The utilities surplus from water, wastewater and garbage should be a rebate back to the residents. We should not be profiting off of those utilities. That should be cost recovery," Hill told CTV News.

"We're taxing them to death and we have so many utility charges for them."

Currently, any extra profit from utilities is put in a reserve fund. That same fund is tapped in years where there's a utilities-related financial loss.

The surpluses come after tthe city grappled with a funding shortfall for 2024 and 2025. After four days of budget deliberations, councillors agreed to raise property taxes 6.04 per cent next year — the highest hike in 10 years.

During an interview, CTV News asked Mayor Charlie Clark specifically if he would be in favour of using the $3 million operating surplus to reduce the property tax burden.

"That would not be a responsible way to deal with a one-time surplus," Clark responded.

"Of course it's nice to get relief, but the more responsible thing to do would be to make sure we've got a little bit more money in our stabilization reserve," Clark said.

"Make sure that we're not taking one-time funds to try and address property taxes. Maybe there's some solution there. But I certainly don't think the right thing to do is to take it all there. Politically, it might be the right idea, but in terms of good governance and trying to make sure that we're running the city well, it’s just going to create a risk for the next years of council."

The city's governance and priorities committee is set to discuss the surplus in a meeting on Tuesday.

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