After meeting with Saskatchewan’s mayors earlier this week, the province says it’s making more changes to the grants-in-lieu program.
The Sask. Party said in a news release Friday nine communities will have their grants-in-lieu reduction capped at 30 per cent of the amount the municipality receives in revenue sharing.
The communities impacted are Estevan, Humboldt, Melfort, Melville, Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Weyburn and Yorkton.
“We felt that it was too much of a burden to put on those municipalities,” she said.
Regina and Saskatoon will still have their grants from SaskPower and SaskEnergy completely eliminated.
However, Minister of Government Relations Donna Harpauer said Friday those grants-in-lieu reductions were a “one-year measure.”
She noted the government would be meeting with urban and rural municipality leaders to discuss a “complete revamping of the various streams of funding” the province sends to communities.
In a media scrum Friday afternoon, Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said Harpauer’s comments provide hope, but more clarity is still needed.
“I don’t know what that means yet,” he said of the government’s statement.
“My preference would have been that we would have sat down and talked about that as part of a package … and not just exchange media releases.”
Clark added the relief to the nine communities doesn’t help Saskatoon, which lost $11.4 million in funding. He said it translated to roughly 24 per cent of their revenues from the government.
The province’s change of heart doesn’t impact Regina either.
That city is still out $10 million.
“The government should be looking at the broadest based treatment, so everyone is treated fair and equitably, but they know this is not the case,” Regina Mayor Michael Fougere argued.
Since the budget the province maintains both Regina and Saskatoon can use reserves to cover the shortfall.
“The province is telling us how to save and spend our money, that is not their concern.”
Since the 1930s, government-owned utilities have paid municipalities the grants-in-lieu in recognition of not paying property taxes as an arm of the provincial government. They were based on a flat percentage of utility sales within the municipality, not related to the value of the property.
In the 2017 budget, the grants-in-lieu payments from SaskPower and SaskEnergy were cancelled – causing communities such as Yorkton to lose more than 57 per cent of their revenue from the province.
Other Crowns and government ministries are still paying grants-in-lieu to both rural and urban municipalities for SaskTel and TransGas, with $29 million spread throughout the province.
In total, the cuts to grants-in-lieu will now reduce municipal funding by about $32 million.
– With files from 650 CKOM’s Chris Vandenbreekel and 980 CJME’s Sarah Mills