Saskatoon

Saskatoon city council votes to hike parking fines and taxes; freeze wages

Saskatoon city council voted to increase parking fines by $10, property taxes by 0.93% and to freeze city wages at Monday's meeting.

Councillors looking to address $9 million funding shortfall following provincial budget cuts

Saskatoon city council will debate ways to deal with $9 million shortfall. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

Saskatoon city council voted on hikes to parking fines, taxes, and city hall staff wage freezes on Monday as part of an ongoing effort to deal with a $9 million funding shortfall caused by last year's provincial budget.

The province scrapped its grants-in-lieu program, which saw payments made to municipalities in place of property taxes for SaskPower and SaskEnergy, which accounts for $33 million in lost revenue for 109 communities in 2017 alone. 

One of the measures to alleviate the funding burden was potentially rescinding the $3 million funding top-up for construction of the University of Saskatchewan's Merlis Belsher Place. 

Coun. Darren Hill initially expressed some concern about the money and wondered if it should be rescinded or re-distributed in another way, rather than simply giving it to one project.

Hill's concerns addressed the fact the development would have went ahead, regardless of whether the city contributed funds.

However, he then withdrew his motion to give the funding another look because it would be akin to the way the province went back on its word during the March 22 budget, meaning the rink will receive the $3 million.

City councillors want to make it clear that any new tax hikes or service cuts were result of provincial cuts out of their control. As a result, separate letters will be mailed out at the same time, detailing exactly where their property tax dollars are going, which councillors say will be a minimal cost. 

City officials say changes to the grants-in-lieu program and the spike in PST caused the $9 million shortfall.

The city split its vote on increasing parking fines, just narrowly passing. The city voted unanimously to freeze wages to the effect of $3.5 million this year, and to hike taxes.

Because of changes to the city's tax policy, the new 0.93 per cent tax hike results in an overall 2.55 per cent hike this year for residential properties — translating to $43.80 per year hike, according to city officials. 

On top of that, city staff won't see any inflationary wage increases in 2017. 

Parking tickets will raise fines up to $30 from $20, effective July 1.

No revisiting school land lease agreements

In the wake of the provincial cuts, the city issued a report earlier this month outlining more than $59 million in so called 'downloading' from the province.

The report says the city helps the province with everything from school land costs, to library and social services funding.

Some of that was be on the table as city councillors look to make up for the $9 million shortfall, such as the land for the new schools.

The province leases the land for four school sites in Saskatoon. While those land parcels are worth about $5.8 million each, typically the land is leased for $1 a year. The city could have stood to make $1.6 million per year, per site if the agreements were revisited.

Council decided against revisiting the agreements, saying it would not be in the best interest of the schools.

Corrections

  • The first version of this story included text that said city council had already voted on the measures. That was incorrect, they had not yet been voted on.
    Apr 24, 2017 6:11 PM CT

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