City council is working out how to use a 0.55 per cent tax increase earmarked for snow and ice programs on Saskatoon roads.
Money from the increase, which works out to about an extra $1 million for 2016, was approved during budget deliberations earlier this month.
On Monday, the city’s standing policy committee on transportation went over a first draft of proposals from administration on how the cash could be used.
The administration report divided ideas into two categories. On the one hand, there were options that could ultimately be folded into a citywide snow removal program. Examples included things like expanding the area around schools that gets cleared, or adding more residential streets to the list of those already having snow trucked away.
Other proposals were brought forward that would add service without building to snow removal in the future, such as getting more sand out at intersections. Increasing the frequency of snow removal in front of schools was another option in this category. Currently, the city undertakes to clear windrows left by plows in front of schools when they reach a height of 75 inches. The administration report didn’t set a number, but noted that because the city would be trucking that snow away regardless, a move to a lower threshold wouldn’t be adding any new snow removal.
During the discussion at committee, councillor Randy Donauer said he understood that given the overall size of the city’s snow operations, an extra $1 million wouldn’t cover everything. He said he supported more sand and de-icing at intersections as it was a frequent topic of complaints from people in his ward.
Donauer also said that he wanted administration to try and find ways to make the money benefit people city wide. He noted that right now, residential streets that get snow removed are generally older ones in inner-city neighbourhoods. In those cases, the removal is generally done because the streets are too narrow to accommodate windrows. Donauer said he understood that some areas might get more attention than others based on need, but repeated that he at least wanted people to see some sign of how their increased taxes are being invested.
Councillor Darren Hill expressed some caution about using the money for more sanding, on the grounds that it wouldn’t see any progress on building a city wide snow removal reserve. He asked the administration to include sanding and de-icing as a separate item for next year’s budget, so that council can debate resources for that part of the program separately.
Part of the administration plan suggested coming up with a system to prioritize residential roads for snow removal. From there, more streets could be added as funding allows, which could ultimately lead to citywide snow removal.
Councillor Charlie Clark told administration that whatever is developed, he wanted to make sure that criteria used to make decisions were clear.
The committee will look at the issue again in January, with a more detailed report also expected from administration.