The average Saskatoon homeowner will be ponying up an extra $81.87 on their 2018 property taxes.
Saskatoon city council approved the 2018 budget early Tuesday evening, setting a mill rate increase of 4.7 per cent.
The rate is lower than the preliminary budget’s proposed 4.96 per cent hike, which would’ve cost taxpayers an average $86.34 more on their 2018 bill.
The average estimates are based on a home with an assessed value of $371,000.
Councillors ended budget discussions a day early, passing the budgets of several departments without adjustments. Many department managers had submitted no proposed increases to their service levels, with increased spending only to account for inflation and mandated staff salary increases.
However, city council did vote to add $450,000 to the street sweeping budget just to maintain current service levels, due to a gap in funding. A similar reason was given for providing an extra $240,000 to parks maintenance.
“It’s tough to leave alone those core services we provide to citizens as underfunded parts of the city,” Mayor Charlie Clark said. “You’d just be kicking the can down the road.”
Council also approved a hybrid funding option to keep the Meewasin Valley Authority afloat, allocating a total of $188,000 in taxpayer money towards general operations and the outdoor skating rink at Kiwanis Memorial Park.
The Saskatoon Police Service had its request for a 3.25 per cent budget increase approved at a cost of $2.6 million, while the Saskatoon Fire Department was given the okay for an extra $1 million.
Council voted seperately to approve the hiring of a new fire inspector at a cost of $125,000. The fire department also got approval for a $32,000 program promoting fire safety among the elderly.
On Monday’s first day of budget discussions, councillors voted to cancel a planned $1.2 million expansion to snow and ice removal in Saskatoon. Instead, they chose to direct $60,000 towards purchasing blue warning lights for city plows and $50,000 into a study on charging for use of snow management facilities.
Ward 10 coun. Zach Jeffries vowed that evening to not vote in favour of any service expansions, given the tight nature of the 2018 budget.
“I can’t in good conscience do that when we’re asking people to pay as much as they are already,” he said.
Ward 1 coun. Darren Hill joined the mayor in pointing out that Saskatoon’s 2018 tax hike would have been 1.92 per cent if council didn’t have to backfill funds slashed by the province in its spring budget.
Hill said he wanted the extra costs imposed by the provincial budget highlighted separately on resident’s bills.
While the 2018 budget has been decided, council will officially set the tax rate in the spring before tax notices are mailed out at the beginning of June.