Saskatoon

Saskatoon council to debate 3.87% property tax increase during budget talks

Saskatoon city councillors will be sitting down for the next two days to shape the city's economic plan for 2021.

2-day event will have councillors debating snow removal, how to use COVID-19 relief money

Saskatoon city council will be debating the 2021 budget over the next two days. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Saskatoon city councillors will be sitting down for the next two days to shape the city's economic plan for 2021.

Administration has created a proposed budget with a property tax hike of 3.87 per cent, unchanged since it was previously set in 2019.

Last week the city issued a financial update, which noted increased COVID-19 expenditures and lost revenue would create a $21.8-million financial hole.

However, administration is recommending that $19.05 million from the federal Safe Restart Agreement, a COVID-19 relief fund, be used to offset increased operating costs and lower revenue.

The remaining savings to make up the deficit would come from reductions in training and travel, reduced fuel costs and hiring fewer people. 

There are some uncertainties.

The snow removal money spent to deal with this year's storm, which is expected to cost somewhere between $6 million and $7 million, will be split between the 2020 and 2021 fiscal year. However, next year's snow clearing budget has not been increased, due to the difficulty of accurately predicting snowfall.

The budget report said there is still the potential for more federal assistance to be announced next year.

If there is a deficit at the end of 2021, the report advises council to use the city's existing stabilization reserves or other funds to make up the difference.

This is the first time the city has used a multi-year budget planning system that was established last year in order to help with long-term planning.

Next year

The budget documents show Saskatoon's cultural institutions could be in tough financial shape next year.

For example, SaskTel Centre is forecasting a $9.3-million drop in revenues in 2021 from what was originally forecast, creating a $1.6-million deficit.

TCU Place is also revising its income by $7 million from initial forecasts, creating a $2.2-million deficit.

Both institutions are expecting to dip into financial reserves to make up the losses.

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