Regina council approves 5.88% tax hike after marathon meeting
Following a marathon meeting that wrapped up after midnight, Regina City Council has voted to increase taxes by 5.88 per cent.
It's the biggest increase in recent years, although less than the 7 per cent that had been proposed earlier this year.
Mayor Michael Fougere has said the extra money is needed to catch up on long-overdue infrastructure demands, plus to deal with the requirements of a growing city.
"Nobody wants to see our taxes go up but we can certainly defend an increase because of rising costs of materials, inflation, wages," Fougere said.
However, some delegates who appeared at the seven-hour meeting Monday night argued 7 per cent is too much and the city must do what it can to hold the line.
What's in the budget?
- property tax hike (city portion) is 5.88 per cent.
- 1 per cent for repairing residential streets will raise $1.7 million.
- capital budget includes $20 million for street infrastructure renewal.
- bridge renewal budget is $5.5 million.
- water and sewer rates hiked 8 per cent.
- North American Indigenous Games will receive $670,000.
- police budget is $73 million, up $3.8 million.
- increase to stadium tax will raise an extra $767,000 this year.
Council members, after listening to presentations from several delegations, began speaking around 10:30 p.m. CST Monday and were still discussing the budget as of midnight. A final vote was held at around 12:30 a.m.
The 5.88 per cent increase will apply to the city portion of taxes only (and not library or education taxes).
The hike includes a 1 per cent special tax for building streets in older areas of the city. Also included in the total is the latest hike to the stadium tax — about 0.45 per cent this year.
The 5.88 per cent hike means the owner of a home with an assessed value of $300,000 will have to pay an extra $92 in the city portion of property taxes this year.
Among those arguing the original hike was over the top was the Regina Association of Realtors.
"You know, three, four per cent is certainly in the range," Gord Archibald, from the Regina Association of Realtors, said prior to the meeting.
"Even five per cent, I suppose, is livable. But seven per cent is just too much."
Archibald was one of the delegations to make a presentation to council.
"It's going to have a significant impact," said John Hopkins, from the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce, who was also concerned about the original proposal.
"At the end of the day, business owners as well as homeowners, will say what are we going to do offset this increase."
Council managed to trim the proposed increase by cutting proposed spending and transferring money from a surplus.
Coun. Bob Hawkins told CBC the cuts include $400,000 that had been earmarked for a bylaw review and $500,000 that was going to be spent on outside consultants.
A $2 million surplus from last year was originally going to be transferred into a reserve fund, but now $1 million of that will go to the 2014 budget.
Late last year, Saskatoon City Council approved a property tax increase of 7.43 per cent.