On Monday April 10, city council will be cracking open the 2017 budget — the one they only just passed in February — and patching the $10.3 million hole that the provincial budget left in their revenue.
This Friday, city administration released a draft of the measures they’re recommending. It’s not pretty. Most noteworthy is an additional 2.5% property tax increase.
That’s on top of the 3.99% property tax increase council already approved for this year. So, if this extra mill rate bump goes through you’ll be paying an extra 6.49% in property taxes this year.
And that’s just on the city portion of your property tax bill!
Regina libraries also saw their provincial funding completely eliminated in Brad Wall’s austerity budget. They’ll have to make that up somehow and if they don’t cut programs or people, they can also request a mill rate increase.
On top of all that, your education taxes are expected to up by 10%.
So, just on the property tax side of things, the provincial budget is definitely going to be hitting your pocketbook.
But the 2.5% extra tax bump proposed by the City of Regina will only cover about half of the $10.3 million they need to make up.
To offset another $1 million, the Regina Police Service will be postponing some capital expenditures and withdrawing money from their reserves.
And the City itself will be cutting back on about $2.5 million worth of programs and services. Which ones? Here’s a partial list:
GONE: transit services on statutory holidays, Play Escapes program, Regent Park Golf Course, Leslie Lawn Bowling Greens, collection depot program (including leaf & yard waste, household hazardous waste, treecycling), Heritage Conservation Awards ceremony, Agribition transit grant, fall herbicide spraying, summer road sweeping program, condo waste rebate, Snow Busters program, print version of the Leisure Guide
REDUCED: curbside garbage collection (going from weekly to bi-weekly pickup), maintenance of city flower pots, tree pruning, snow fencing, asphalt maintenance budget, landfill hours
Note that council will be debating all of this at Monday’s meeting and so there’s a chance that some of these programs can be saved or that the mill rate increase could be reduced.
One avenue the city is not presently considering is withdrawing cash from their General Fund Reserve to spackle over their revenue hole. Here’s administration’s justification for that:
Using reserves to support the 2017 budget shortfall is not a realistic option. The use of reserves to support on-going costs will only delay the need to address the underlying issue and impair future financial flexibility. Current reserve levels are moderate, but not excessive when the total value of the City’s assets is considered. Administration is recommending the utilization of onetime savings rather than reserves in 2017 to provide time to review alternative revenues and/or ongoing expense reductions.
Drawing from reserves might be an attractive way out of these cuts as we have about $26 million (last I checked) in our General Fund Reserve that we could pull from.
And depleting municipals reserves is what Brad Wall has been advising Sask cities and towns to do — in the most condescending terms. On twitter…
Yep. Consultation between levels of government is happening on social media.
The future is bullshit.
Also… it’s pretty galling for Brad Wall to be browbeating cities into using up their reserves when it was his government’s wild spending that used up the provincial rainy day fund — leaving Saskatchewan with little-to-no reserve buffer to use to soften the current financial downturn.
Why, it’s almost like the Saskatchewan Party has smashed their piggy bank and spent everything in it and are now treating every piggy bank in the province as theirs to smash when they see fit.
I have more to say on all of this but I’m going to save it until after tonight’s council meeting. I’ll be live tweeting starting at 5:30pm from my live-tweet account @PDCityHall.
I will doubtless be groggily writing something for Thursday’s P-Dog once that meeting is finished.
And, for background information on what’s led up these municipal cuts, you can check out the last two episodes of Queen City Improvement Bureau, the radio show I do with Aidan Morgan on 91.3 CJTR, Regina community radio. We get deep into the weeds on Grants-In-Lieu. And, boy howdy, it’s just about as thrilling as it sounds.