The Meewasin Valley Authority says it’s “taking a hit” from the provincial budget, and it could jeopardize the organization’s services.
The province revealed in Wednesday’s budget it’s cutting $409,000 from the MVA’s funding, nearly half of the $909,000 that was expected.
“It will certainly have an impact,” MVA CEO Lloyd Isaak told 650 CKOM. “We’re going to try and find a way through this somehow.”
Isaak said the lost funding represents 20 per cent of the MVA’s overall budget, minus donations and grants.
He said the authority has been facing financial stress for several years, and the fact Saskatoon is a growing city is creating more pressure.
“We have shrinking financial resources and growing [responsibilities],” he said. “We’re beginning to hit a wall here.”
Isaak emphasized the need to meet with the MVA’s board and partners to determine budgeting priorities given the cuts.
He added they’re working to make provisions for all MVA workers, but didn’t say whether staff cuts would be happening.
TRAIL USERS DISAPPOINTED
Residents who use the trails maintained by the MVA were disappointed by the news.
“This is how we recharge our batteries,” Darcy Nedjelski said of using the paths.
The Saskatoon nurse said she jogs on the trails nearly every day she has off, and she worries what a lack of funding will do to the maintenance of the trails.
Nedjelski suggested the city is partially to blame.
“If we hadn’t had a conservative-minded mayor, perhaps we wouldn’t have spent money the way we did,” she said.
“Had we managed our civic politics and economy better… we would have the money to avoid a crisis (with the MVA).”
Kelly Knowles also frequents the trails, and she was surprised when hearing about the cuts.
“That seems quite steep,” she said. “It’d be a shame for the trails to be run down because of this.”
She noted the walkways are in good shape even through the winter, saying drastic cuts could change that.
UNIVERSITY, CITY REVIEWING OPTIONS
The province had previously been required to fund the MVA through a joint agreement with the City of Saskatoon and the University of Saskatchewan.
But the budget and accompanying legislation will allow the U of S to reduce their portion of the funding as well.
A statement from the government said the funding from the university would remain the same at their discretion.
Asked for comment, the university said they’re still going through the provincial budget to determine how a decrease in their own funding could impact the agreement with the MVA.
Mayor Charlie Clark reacted to the cuts Wednesday, saying the city would “continue to fight” to fund the authority.
“We need to make sure with this cut that we can keep Meewasin going,” he said, noting there’s concern the statutory funding clause was removed for the MVA.
Clark said communications with Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Ken Cheveldayoff suggest he’s also pushing to maintain MVA funding at the provincial level.
The mayor added the MVA’s function in protecting the riverfront will continue to be important as the city develops the area surrounding the North Commuter Parkway Bridge.
“Meewasin plays a crucial role in preserving the integrity of all that activity,” he said.
“This is a challenging budget, no question.”