Saskatoon council passes 7.43 per cent tax increase
What started as Saskatoon's biggest property tax increase in recent memory climbed even higher after two days of budget review in the city council chamber.
A 7.26 per cent increase was in the draft budget. By the time the mayor and council got through with it, the increase rose to 7.43 per cent.
"In twenty years of budgets I cannot recall us ever doing a tax increase of seven per cent," Mayor Don Atchison said.
The addition of a project to build more traffic sound barriers, or attenuation walls, drove the tax increase to the 7.43 per cent mark. It would have been slightly higher but changes to some rates SaskPower charges the city for electricity kept the increase down.
The city will put aside half a million dollars each year for the next three years to finance construction of the sound barriers. It also plans to borrow $15 million for the project, when construction starts in 2016.
Of the 7.43 per cent total tax increase, more than half — 4.29 per cent — is earmarked to put the city's roads in better shape.
"Our road budget continued to increase every year," Atchison said Thursday in an interview with CBC Saskatoon Morning.
"I think the budget truly reflects the feelings of the citizens of Saskatoon. We are dealing with the situation, a budget of over $34 million invested into our roadways, we've got back alleys that we're doing, sidewalks we're doing, snow clearing."
The mayor said the city fell behind in that area because in recent years attention was focused on beefing up police service and building affordable housing.
"Now that we've come to grips with it I'm satisfied that in a few years we will have better, safer, smoother roads to drive on," Councillor Pat Lorje said.
Meanwhile Councillor Eric Olauson is proposing a type of sunset clause for the dedicated road tax. He said if the city reaches the point where the money is no longer needed to catch up on road maintenance, the tax should be scrapped.
Replay the Saskatoon Morning live chat about the city's budget. If you'd like to weigh in, leave your thoughts in the comments section below.