The preliminary 2017 budget for the City of Saskatoon is now public.
Administration presented the document to the new city council at a special meeting Monday afternoon.
Under pressure to release numbers ahead of the Oct. 26 election, administration put out an update in September suggesting a 3.89 per cent tax increase to cover a revenue shortfall of about $7.9 million.
The document presented Monday came in quite close to the September estimate.
Overall, administration is asking council to approve a tax increase of 3.97 per cent. That’s equivalent to another $67.55 per year for an average homeowner.
Most of the proposed increase comes due to dedicated levies for road repair and snow and ice removal.
A 3.97 per cent tax increase would generate an additional $8.06 million for the city. Of that, $3.91 million would go towards the dedicated road levy, $1.12 million would be earmarked for improvements to the snow and ice program and the remaining $3.03 million would cover costs related to inflation and growth.
Mayor Charlie Clark told reporters after the special meeting the numbers weren’t a big surprise.
“We know we’re in a leaner time for revenues, so we don’t see any big new initiatives,” he said.
The newly-elected leader of city council added the budget proposed by administration reflects what he heard on the campaign trail, particularly in regards to the road and snow levies.
“We’ve heard from citizens that they want to make sure that work carries on,” he said.
The preliminary budget doesn’t contain any costs from the Saskatoon Police Service related to growth, including any requests for new officers. Those will be ironed out during Chief Clive Weighill’s budget presentation to the new Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners later in November.
Ward 1 City Councillor Darren Hill, who sits on the police board, said there have already been communications to council that city police want to step up patrols in areas experiencing high rates of break-and-enters.
He added many councillors heard about safety concerns from voters.
“They want to see an increased police presence,” Hill said. “And that leads to an increase in the operating budget, which leads to an increase in the mill rate for properties.”
With the levies for roads and snow removed from the equation, administration is asking for an additional 1.49 per cent in taxes. That falls just shy of inflation, estimated at 1.6 per cent.
2017 is the last budget year for the road levy, which began in the 2014 budget year.
The dedicated levy for snow and ice removal of 0.55 per cent per year began in the 2016 budget year. It’s meant to gradually build up funds that could potentially cover a full clear of accumulated snow on city roads once per year. Last year, council opted to use the funds to improve snow removal around schools.
Last year’s tax increase came in at 3.96 per cent. Over the last four years the average tax increase has been 5.4 per cent.