Six At Night: City Budget Edition

6 in the EveningThe city’s budgets passed tonight. Here are six things you should know.

1. THEY SHAVED HALF A PERCENT OFF THE MILL RATE INCREASE… HAPPY NOW? Councillor Browne kicked off discussion of the General Operating Budget with a motion to drop the mill rate increase to 4.0 per cent (down from 4.5 per cent proposed in the draft budget). No programs or services were cut to fund this. Instead, a little over $600,000 will be taken out of the Land Development Reserve.

2. STILL NOT HAPPY AT 4.0 PER CENT? BLAME THE PROVINCE: A fair bit of ire was directed the Sask Party government’s way. Councillor Hincks summed up the issue like this: “The provincial government should take all the heat for this [mill rate increase] because they set up a funding formula and didn’t stick to it.” The funding formula the province didn’t stick to is the portion of the PST the city is supposed to receive. To balance it’s own budget, the province reneged on a promise to boost the portion that municipalities are to receive. That left Regina city council $8 million poorer than they’d anticipated.

3. PEOPLE DON’T LIKE PROPERTY TAXES, PART 1: The Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Association of Regina Realtors came out to express their opposition for any property tax increase. They found that their calls for greater efficiency from the city had little traction with council tonight. Councillors repeatedly pointed to the Core Services Review as evidence that the city is turning over every rock to find efficiencies.

4. PEOPLE DON’T LIKE PROPERTY TAXES, PART 2: Councillor Szarka “served notice” to administration (what an oddly aggressive turn of phrase) that this year he’d be initiating a debate on a base tax system that could replace the city’s current property tax system because residents of his ward are tired of paying so much more in taxes and receiving so little in services when compared to residents in the inner city. Councillor Hincks backed up Szarka’s call for a review of the property tax structure. Later, Councillor O’Donnell announced that he’d be spending the next several months working to come up with alternate funding sources for the city, his goal being to find a way to make future property tax increases unnecessary.

5. CITY UNION WANTS MORE WORK AND MORE WORKERS: CUPE Local 21 came out to speak about low morale among some city workers. They argued that the city’s increasing reliance on outside contractors to complete city work is inefficient. They brought up several examples of work that could have been done in-house for less money than the city paid out to private companies. They also noted how their front-line workforce has been slowly shrinking over the years, making it difficult for them to take on additional projects despite the cost savings they could offer the city. After their presentation, no one on council asked for any elaboration.

6. OTHER THINGS PASSED TONIGHT TOO: The Regina Public Library got its requested 2.9 per cent mill rate increase and the Warehouse Business Improvement District got their 0.8809. Council also gave the green light to the City Square project despite the much-higher-than-anticipated bids to do the work. Also, in response to provincial funding cuts to pest control (which apparently were made without consultation with the city) council passed a significantly reduced mosquito control program to accommodate their loss in funding. Councillor Clipsham brought forward a motion to send the province an invoice for the pest control work that the city’s done.

Okay, that’s a quick overview of tonight’s budget proceedings. Expect more in the upcoming prairie dog.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

8 thoughts on “Six At Night: City Budget Edition”

  1. Re: #4

    So basically the more expensive areas of town want a tax break by getting the poorer areas to pay more tax? Pardon?!?!

    So we want to cut Windsor Park et al taxes to raise up North Central? Well if you want to go that way why don’t we just get rid of the city hall and make everything fee for service. That way we be just like some US cities where the rich areas of town made their own government to keep their tax dollars lower.

    Come on folks. If you can’t afford the taxes on your nice big house, then don’t buy it in the first place.

  2. 1260 Retallack st pays taxes of $201.77
    2160 Retallack St pays taxes of $2,298.53

    large difference in the inner city areas too

  3. Jeff,

    Not surprising. First address is blocks from Scott, while second is right off 13th Ave. I can see those areas having a large difference.

  4. How many properties in the lower-taxed inner city are revenue properties owned by people who don’t live in the neighbourhood?

  5. My dad and I talked about that as an option regarding this tax issue – perhaps taxes in lower income neightbourhoods should be higher for rental property owners while people who are trying to transition from renter to owner shouldn’t be held back by property taxes that they can’t afford.

  6. i suspect any attempt to have base tax on revenue properties in any part of the city would see the property owners saying or thinking “i’ll just pass it onto my tenants”

    i also suspect that some people in the vicinity of 2160 Retallack St might be renters, so they are *already* probably paying for a higher property tax in their rent, whereas those in the vicinity of 1260 Retallack are not

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