Saskatoon

Saskatoon councillors approve $35.5M spending plan for provincial COVID-19 funding

The money comes from the province's Municipal Economic Enhancement Program (MEEP) program, designed to help municipalities pay for "shovel-ready" programs that may have fallen by the wayside after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.

Money will free up $15 million to be used for budget shortfall

Saskatoon city councillors have approved a $35.5 million plan to allocate emergency provincial money after the COVID-19 pandemic. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

City councillors have approved a plan to spend millions of dollars in emergency provincial funding on infrastructure projects.

At a committee meeting on Monday, Saskatoon city council accepted the administration's plan to allocate $35.5 million dollars to city projects. Those will include $27 million toward the Paved Roadways Infrastructure Reserve and $2 million for a permanent downtown festival site.

The money comes from the province's Municipal Economic Enhancement Program (MEEP) program, designed to help municipalities pay for "shovel-ready" programs that may have fallen by the wayside after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.

The provincial money also freed up $15 million in previously budgeted city spending, which will now be used to shore up any shortfalls seen in the budget due to lost revenues after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Chief Financial Officer Kerry Tarasoff believed the $15 million in funding would likely be enough to cover any shortfall in this year's city budget.

Another $12.13 million was freed up to spend on a variety of other city projects.  A long list included the redevelopment of the former city bus yards in Caswell Hill and a multi-use corridor that would run along the railway corridor from Idylwyld Drive to Avenue W. Approved projects will be voted on at the Governance and Priorities Committee's next meeting in July.

Municipal governments are bound by provincial legislation, the Cities Act, to post balanced budgets on an annual basis. Any deficit from 2020 would be added onto the bill in 2021.

In April, the city was estimating a budget deficit of about $32 million by the end of the year, even after money saving measures and cuts have been implemented. However, that number has since been revised.

The province had set a deadline for MEEP funding proposals of July 17.

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