Homeowners in Saskatoon can expect to be shelling out more money if the city’s proposed budget for next year is approved.
The proposed 2016 budget was released Monday at Executive Council. The budget includes a recommended 3.95 per cent property tax increase. The proposed increase would work out to an extra $65 a year for an average home listed at $325,000.
Half the increase is dedicated to improving roads, which would be funded for a third year with a dedicated road levy. The tax hike would add $4.1 million to the pot, bringing the road budget to $57.5 million in 2016.
The police service budget eats up another 1.62 per cent of the increase, including the addition of 8 new constables next year. The fire department increase takes up 0.69 per cent and debt repayment for traffic sound walls makes up the remainder.
City Manager Murray Totland said the budget is a reflection of what residents asked for during a civic survey conducted last summer.
“They said those were the two most important things and priorities for them. This budget reflects increased investment in both those areas,” he said.
Totland said he believes the proposed increase balances those priorities without cutting services.
“Our citizens expect a better service level in our city and they’re prepared to spend money where they see value,” he said.
“There really aren’t any reductions and in fact, there are some modest service level increase in things like snow and ice.”
The city expects to bring in more revenue next year. However, an additional $15-million coming in will be offset by an increase in expenditures, which rise by $22.5 million to $457.1 million. Nearly half of that will go toward wages and benefits.
A few months ago the proposed tax increase was sitting at 4.35 per cent. Chief Financial Officer Kerry Tarasoff said the proposed tax increase was brought under 4 per cent through operating efficiencies and additional revenue from a electrical utility rate increase.
On the capital side, the budget proposes $177.2 million in various projects, which is a reduction of over 48-million from 2015.
$15.5 million for sound walls
$5.5 million to rehab the Idylwyld Drive Ruth overpass.
$1.2 million for a new fire hall.
$1 million for an arena partnership
The budget isn’t finalized yet and council will decide what stays and goes when deliberations begin on November 30th.
There is also a new way for the public to weigh in on the budget and until November 13th the city is encouraging residents to share their views using a new interactive tool on the city’s website.
The proposed budget was released a month sooner this year after councillors expressed concern last year that not enough time was given to get input and make changes.