Everything’s on the table.
That’s what people in the province heard from the finance minister ahead of the provincial budget last week.
It’s also what we’re hearing from Bob Maloney, the mayor of Yorkton.
He said the loss of the grants-in-lieu program is an “unprecedented hit” for Yorkton.
“With 58 per cent of our provincial funding being clawed back, that would add up to a 10 per cent hike in taxes for residents of Yorkton so it’s a huge hit to our budget,” he said by phone Monday, adding that it will cost the city $1.6 million directly and up to $2.4 million by adding up the different impacts.
Maloney said city council held off finalizing their own budget until the province’s budget came out on March 22, a move he’s glad they made.
“It will mean a hard look at what we’re doing, both in capital and in operating. It will pretty much mandate cuts across the board on both sides of our budget so a difficult situation for us, no doubt.”
While the budget may not be set in stone, Maloney is certain of one thing: there will be a tax hike for residents.
“Just to pass along what’s been dumped on our plate would need a 10 per cent increase in taxes,” he said.
Before the budget came down, Maloney said council was “looking at whittling down” the budget to five per cent.
Now, his council is looking to the people of Yorkton to find out what they’d like to see happen, adding that, like in the provincial budget, everything is on the table.
Yorkton hit hardest per capita
Maloney said while the focus has been on the budget fall out for Regina and Saskatoon, smaller cities like Yorkton are also feeling the strain.
“Per capita, we have been hit the hardest,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of big manufacturing, big business in Yorkton and I would suggest they’re big power users, which is why our tab is higher than other cities.”
Maloney said the province has more options when it comes to raising money, from hiking the provincial sales tax, tweaking income tax or raising energy and power rates.
“The city of Yorkton only has one source of revenue and that’s our taxpayers,” he said.
Yorkton City Council is meeting Monday night to determine the next course of action. While he said he’d rather talk to the province first, Maloney hasn’t ruled out legal action like Saskatoon.
“If we can’t find common ground, I’ve got a signed agreement on my desk right now that was signed in 1959 and it said these funds would be coming to the city of Yorkton in perpetuity and if that contract is going to be broken then there can be implications of that.”
Regina’s city council is also meeting Monday night to discuss the implications of the budget.
— with files from Britton Gray