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Council approves 2017 Budget

Tue Feb 14 10:06:40 CST 2017

Regina City Council approved the City’s $437 million 2017 General Operating Budget with a 2.99 mill rate increase plus the continuing 1% investment dedicated to renew residential roads.

For a resident with a home assessed at $300,000, property taxes will go up $8.09 per month. Education tax rates, set by the provincial government, are not finalized yet. The City collects education tax and then forwards it to the provincial treasury.

“The City’s 2017 Budget continues to build for the future by investing in community priorities for Regina’s continued growth,” Mayor Michael Fougere said.

“We will maintain services and service levels, continue to invest in infrastructure renewal, manage our growth efficiently and effectively, and maintain affordability for Regina residents,” he said. “With this budget, we’ve achieved that balance.”

The 2017 Operating Budget funds various municipal services, from police and fire to roads, traffic management, snow removal, parks and open spaces.

For City Manager Chris Holden, the 2017 Budget was his first. He describes it as responsible given the fiscal challenges facing municipalities across the province.

“We take our responsibility to use tax dollars efficiently seriously – to be cost effective and to find new and better ways to get the work done,” Holden said following Council’s budget approval.

Building on the pledge to find efficiencies within City Hall, Holden said “the Executive Leadership Team is committed to administrative savings in 2017 of $2.5 million. This savings alone reduced the 2017 mill rate increase by 1.25 points and is the first phase of a 2017 core services review.”

City Administration projected a 5% drop - $2.1 million – in the Revenue Sharing Grant from the provincial government resulting from reduced Provincial Sales Tax (PST) revenue.

“The pace of economic growth in Saskatchewan has slowed and the City’s portion of revenue sharing is down as a result,” the Mayor said. “We recognize these new economic realities and by launching a core services review in 2017 we will begin to find more innovative, creative ways to deliver services to residents.”

Fougere’s comments come on the heels of new census data showing the population of metropolitan Regina outpaced the national growth rate over the last five years, coming in at 11.8% compared to 5% nationally and 6.3% across the rest of Saskatchewan. As well, the City’s total land area increased in that time from 145.45 square kilometres in 2011 to 179.97 in 2016.

“Behind these numbers is all the work that City of Regina employees do to build the infrastructure and deliver the services to support our growing City,” Fougere said.

Regina’s Water Utility, which operates on a full cost-recovery basis, also saw Council approve a 4% rate increase effective March 1, 2017. Capital spending this year for water-related projects is pegged at $66 million and includes such things as replacing aging underground water, sanitary and drainage pipes and a third forcemain at the McCarthy Boulevard Pumping Station.

“The City recognizes this is a major capital investment to provide clean and safe water services now and in the future, but affordability needs to be a priority as well,” the Mayor said, noting in 2017 the utility rate strategy will be reviewed and public engagement will be an important part of the review process.

2017 Budget Highlights:
•    Roadway network improvements, including $7.5 million for residential streets, $18 million for major arterial streets and $6 million to renew bridges;
•    Record investment of $9.3 million in snow clearing;
•    Regina Police Service operating funds of $84.5 million;
•    Fire and Protective Services operating funds of $42.6 million
•    Transit and paratransit enhancements, including $8.3 million to replace 13 transit and six paratransit buses and $2.9 million for bus shelters, service and technology improvements. (NOTE: This is jointly funded by the City of Regina and the Government of Canada.)