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Managing in the new reality – 2017 amended city budget proposed

Fri Apr 07 15:23:34 CST 2017

Today, the City of Regina released its recommendations to Council to address the impact of the provincial budget funding changes announced two weeks ago on March 22, 2017.

“We are managing the City and its finances with a long-term view so we’ve had to make difficult decisions to balance the budget. Public safety is our first priority when considering the various options to programs, services or the level of those services. We worked to meet residents’ needs for affordability and also financial sustainability,” said Chris Holden, City Manager.

“We remain vigilant around investing in and revitalizing needed infrastructure in our City. We’ve done good work to date and we don’t want to jeopardize this,” Holden said. “Our recommendations do not draw on reserves to cover the budget shortfall. They are a combination of immediate changes and commissioning of some work to be completed in the near term to review policy and programs to see what else we can do to meet the challenges we’ll face in 2018.”

The City anticipates a $10.3 million dollar impact this year ($8 million due to the elimination of payments for access from SaskEnergy and SaskPower and $2.1 million due to the PST changes). The City is required by law to balance the budget each year and was required to reopen and rebalance the 2017 City Budget.

Administration’s recommendations do not rely solely on drawing down reserves to cover the budget shortfall. The City has diligently and wisely set aside funds in reserve to be used for emergencies, investing in major capital projects and for taking advantage of cost-share funding from other levels of government, like building a new facility to store and repair our City buses and a new International Trade Centre at Evraz Place.

The proposed budget will be balanced through a combination of approximately $924,000 in revenue increases, $4.1 million in reduced expenses and a 2.5% mill rate increase ($5.25 million in revenue). There is no impact to public safety, such as police and fire services, clean water and sewer services. In addition, the City remains committed to planned investment in infrastructure renewal.

Recommendations that will take effect this year:
•    A mill rate increase of 2.5% from the original approved increase of 3.99%. The impact on the homeowner with an assessed home value of $350,000 will be an additional increase of $3.87/month in 2017.
•    A $1 million reduction in the Regina Police Service budget. Front line service and response times will not be affected.
•    A 20% increase July 1, 2017 in street use permits and traffic bylaw fees
•    Cost reductions for one-time savings of $246,000 and ongoing savings of $330,000 in addition to the $2.5 million reduction in administrative savings already included in the 2017 budget
•    Program and service reductions for one-time savings of $874,000 in 2017, plus ongoing savings of $1.7 million
•    A moratorium on all non-essential out-of-province travel
•    A hiring freeze on all non-essential vacancies
•    A targeted reduction in the overall labour force through attrition

Reviews that will begin with changes planned in 2018:
•    The funding relationship with City service partners to ensure best value for funding invested
•    The repeal of The Wascana Centre Authority Act and the tabling of The Provincial Capital Commission Act, which changes the relationship and financial obligations of the City with Wascana Park
•    Property tax exemptions to build alignment with the community grant program to ensure equitable treatment and value for funding invested across all stakeholders
•    The split of property tax between residential and non-residential property taxpayers to ensure equity and fairness
•    Other tax opportunities including expanded application of the Amusement Tax
•    Recreation services and service levels in response to the recommendations of the Recreation Master Plan
•    Opportunities to establish solid waste management as a self-sustaining utility
•    Fees for Planning and Building applications

The recommendations reflect the best thinking and team effort of employees dedicated to delivering high quality services to Regina residents.

Regina.ca/amendedbudget provides more information and details on the recommendations. Residents are invited to attend this special meeting of council. For this meeting, rules around delegations or groups who want to speak to Council are being relaxed. The City Clerk will accept delegation submissions until noon on Monday, April 10 for those wishing to appear before Council.

Timeline and Background
On February 13, 2017, the City approved its 2017 Budget which maintained services and service levels, invested in infrastructure renewal, managed growth and maintained affordability. The budget included a property tax increase of 3.99 per cent. On March 22, 2017, the provincial government released its 2017/2018 Budget which announced an estimated $10.3 million revenue loss to the City of Regina in 2017, growing to an estimated $15.7 million in 2018.

Municipalities are limited in their revenue sources to property taxes, user fees and funding from other levels of government. On average, out of every dollar that residents pay in taxes, only 8 cents goes to the municipal government. The other 92 cents go to the federal and provincial government.