Saskatoon city council has thrown a lifeline to the Meewasin Valley Authority.
Council approved a hybrid funding strategy for the conservation group during budget talks Tuesday, providing a total of $331,000 in much-needed money for operations.
Councillors voted unanimously to provide $45,000 for the outdoor skating rink in Kiwanis Memorial Park, while $286,000 for overall operations funds split votes 8-3.
The vote approved using $143,000 of taxpayers’ money for 2018, with another $143,000 from the municipal special events reserve.
The reserve currently has a balance of $1.5 million, with plans to contribute $500,000 more in 2018.
Councillors Darren Hill, Ann Iwanchuk and Troy Davies voted against the motion, though they didn’t want to deprive the MVA of funding altogether.
The three councillors instead supported a motion to pull the entire $286,000 from the special events reserve.
Tuesday’s vote translated to an extra $1.41 on the average homeowner’s tax bill, which will be $81.87 more in 2018.
Ward 10 coun. Zach Jeffries said the money was a good investment.
“It’s less expensive than if we were to have to do this ourselves,” he said. “It funds what we care about … and does so in a frugal way, in an efficient way.”
The MVA made the ask after struggling to deal with $440,000 in cuts made by the province in the spring, causing them to shut down several popular programs in the summer.
In September, interim CEO Doug Porteous warned the organization could “cease to exist” if new funding wasn’t found.
Several councillors expressed concern a vote to fund the MVA would send a message to the province that they were willing to step up to fill in the gap, giving the government less incentive to restore their contributions.
“There’s too many questions on who’s going to step up, or who might not step up for them moving forward,” Ward 4 coun. Troy Davies said.
However, Mayor Charlie Clark said if the Sask. Party or NDP want to win urban seats in 2019, they’ll have to be wary of Saskatoon residential support for the MVA.
“I’ll keep fighting for Meewasin,” Clark said.
Coun. Hill also suggested the R.M. of Corman Park would need to step up, given much of the MVA’s trails and conservation areas lie outside city limits.
MVA Board Chair Colin Tennent told reporters they will continue to have conversations with the Corman Park council on the matter.