The police and library budgets were approved as the first of three budget meetings scheduled for this week.
Saskatoon City Council started three days of budget deliberations on Monday. The meeting started with the Council discussing a number of general reports prepared by the administration to provide background to the upcoming discussions, as well as presentations from a number of parties wishing to provide comments that would help shape the debate. At the time of writing, the proposed increases in property tax for 2022 and 2023 were 3.5 and 3.14 percent, respectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to continue to bite the city coffers
The city government estimates the impact of the pandemic will cost $ 13.85 million in 2022 and $ 10.02 million in 2023. The costs are covered by funds from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure program, which is provided by the federal and provincial governments. The administration can ask the council to adjust the budget if the actual costs differ significantly.
Groups of companies are calling for a reduction in expenditure, a recruitment fee
Both Keith Moen, Executive Director of the North Saskatoon Business Association and Jason Aebig of the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce gave presentations. Moen noted that the budget includes around 95.5 full-time employees and suggested that the city freeze hires instead. “Once an FTE is added it never goes away and the town hall just keeps growing,” he said.
Aebig also warned the council against keeping taxes low as companies recover from the pandemic. When asked where he might suggest the city could spend more, he said the police and efforts to revitalize the downtown core.
SPCA warns of imminent closure and asks for emergency funds
The council also heard from Graham Dickson, executive director of the Saskatoon Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). He told the council that the organization’s finances were in dire shape. “Ultimately, we will be forced to close our doors within the next year without any intervention,” he said. The SPCA calls for a revision of its agreements with the city on the operation of the animal house and the enforcement of animal welfare laws. Dickson said that under the current arrangements, the SPCA had to use the money it raised from fundraising to pay for these services. The SPCA is also asking the council to allocate $ 50,000 a month to help the SPCA stay afloat in the meantime. The Council is to vote on this later in the budgetary procedure.
The police budget maintains the line in the ratio of officers to the population
The council unanimously passed the Saskatoon police budget, which for 2022 was $ 119,710,700, up 3.65 percent from the previous year. Budget highlights include eight new patrol officers to be hired in 2022 and four in 2023. This would keep the police force at its current rate of 173 officers per 100,000 residents. The police budget will be $ 124,620,500 in 2023.
Saskatoon Public Library budget approved
The city councils also unanimously approved the budget submitted by the Saskatoon Public Library. That provides a budget of $ 29,792,600 in 2022 and $ 31,248,000 in 2023. The library dues share of property taxes is set to increase 3.79 percent in 2022, which equates to $ 8.14 per year for the owner of a home estimated to be worth $ 371,000. The library levy is set to increase 3.78 percent, or $ 8.14 per year, in 2023 for the owner of an apartment with an estimated value of $ 371,000. Most of these increases will go to the reserve fund to pay for the new downtown branch.
The library is also trying to hire a director of security, with the library’s CEO Carol Cooley telling the council that incidents have reached a point where librarians can no longer be asked to take care of security “outside of their desks”.