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City proposes additional 2.5% tax hike, $4.1M in cuts
Published Friday, April 7, 2017 4:39PM CST
The City of Regina is proposing to increase property taxes by 2.5 per cent on top of the previously approved 3.99 per cent hike, while cutting spending by $4.1 million.
The proposed changes are in response to last month’s provincial budget, which contained a raft of cuts, including the elimination of grants-in-lieu funding for municipalities.
The city faces an estimated $10.3-million funding shortfall – $8 million of that from the end of the grants-in-lieu payments from SaskEnergy and SaskPower, and another $2.1 million as a result of PST changes in the provincial budget.
City administration proposes to balance the budget through a combination of about $924,000 in revenue increases, $4.1 million in spending cuts and the additional 2.5 per cent mill rate increase. The additional property tax hike is expected to generate $5.25 million in revenue.
Other proposed changes to the 2017 civic budget include:
- A $1 million cut to the Regina Police Service budget. The city says frontline service and response times will not be affected
- A 20% increase July 1, 2017 in street use permits and traffic bylaw fees
- Cost reductions for one-time savings of $246,000 and ongoing savings of $330,000, in addition to the $2.5 million reduction in administrative savings already included in the 2017 budget
- Program and service reductions for one-time savings of $874,000 in 2017, plus ongoing savings of $1.7 million
- A moratorium on all non-essential out-of-province travel
- A hiring freeze on all non-essential vacancies
- A targeted reduction in the overall labour force through attrition
In a news release Friday, city manager Chris Holden said administration had to make difficult decisions to balance the budget.
“Public safety is our first priority when considering the various options to programs, services or the level of those services. We worked to meet residents’ needs for affordability and also financial sustainability,” he said.
Holden says the city remains “vigilant” when it comes to investing in and revitalizing needed infrastructure.
“We’ve done good work to date and we don’t want to jeopardize this,” he said.
“Our recommendations do not draw on reserves to cover the budget shortfall. They are a combination of immediate changes and commissioning of some work to be completed in the near term to review policy and programs to see what else we can do to meet the challenges we’ll face in 2018.”
Reviews that will begin with changes planned in 2018 include:
- The funding relationship with city service partners to ensure best value for funding invested
- The repeal of The Wascana Centre Authority Act and the tabling of The Provincial Capital Commission Act, which changes the relationship and financial obligations of the city with Wascana Park
- Property tax exemptions to build alignment with the community grant program to ensure equitable treatment and value for funding invested across all stakeholders
- The split of property tax between residential and non-residential property taxpayers to ensure equity and fairness
- Other tax opportunities including expanded application of the Amusement Tax
- Recreation services and service levels in response to the recommendations of the Recreation Master Plan
- Opportunities to establish solid waste management as a self-sustaining utility
- Fees for Planning and Building applications
City council will consider the proposed changes to the 2017 civic budget at a special meeting scheduled for April 10. Submissions to council will be accepted by the city clerk until noon that day. For more information, visit Regina.ca/amendedbudget.