After several hours of debate, Regina city council is finalizing its budget for next year while reducing the property tax and utility rate increases.
The mayor and councillors finalized the 2016 general and utility operating and capital budgets unanimously Monday night. Homeowners are now faced with a 3.3 per cent property tax increase, which is a drop from the initially raised 3.9 per cent figure.
What it means is the average homeowner will pay roughly another $85 a year on their taxes, though city administration is expected to release updated figures Tuesday to spell out exactly what it means on tax bills.
“It’s a better budget now than when we got it,” said Mayor Michael Fougere. “You can’t shave it down much more than that without beginning to affect service.”
Councillor Sharron Bryce raised an amendment that administration use the $1 million in unanticipated assessment revenues in 2016 to lower the mill rate. That was passed.
Councillor Barbara Young also raised an amendment to see the utility rate lowered from six per cent to five per cent and that administration prepare a report that would review future utility rates to ensure sustainability and affordability in the coming years. That was also carried.
The new utility rate increase will translate into about another $7.25 per month. Again, administration is expected to provide clarification on that Tuesday.
Budget Highlights include:
- $24.1 million for street, sidewalk and bridge renewal
- $9.1 million for winter road maintenance
- funding for eight new constables for the Regina Police Service
- $5.7 million for recreation facilities, playgrounds and parks
Councillors asked for city staff to review the Community Investment Grants program, while also raising and passing two motions specifically aimed at transit service. One motion entailed offering bus service on an ongoing annual basis on five additional holidays — Victoria Day, Canada Day, Saskatchewan Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving. The other motion will look at the feasibility of expanding service to Fairway West, Edgewater and Westhill for 2017.
“The way the budget is right now, I’m comfortable,” said Ward 5 Councillor John Findura. “I think citizens will be happy with what we’re doing.”
Earlier in the night, the Regina Police Service’s budget was passed, even as several delegations presented and called for council to turn down the request for more officers and improved weapons, citing issues with officer accountability.