Mayor, councillor ‘not surprised’ with ‘chintzy’ provincial budget

By Tyler Marr
April 11, 2018 - 12:00pm Updated: April 13, 2018 - 12:59pm

While the city was not thrown into ‘crisis mode’ following Tuesday’s provincial budget, a welcome change over last year, Mayor Greg Dionne said he still foresees plenty of challenges down the road.

His main point of contention surrounded the lack of details on funding announcements and the lack of solid programs aimed at getting people back to work. 

“I’m not surprised by the budget, because [Brad] Wall left [Scott] Moe with nothing; he left him with an empty cupboard,” Dionne said. “We understand when the economy is down we all suffer, but at the same time we’ve got to get our people back to work.”

Dionne took aim at the government's failure to remove PST from construction projects, saying new home starts are one of the fastest ways to get a high number of people back to work in high-paying jobs.

Both the mayor and Coun. Don Cody took issue with the province's decision to once again roll back municipal revenue sharing dollars. Prince Albert lost $2.5 million in payments in 2017, and over $3 million this year. The city will only see $6.33 million in 2018, down from $6.77 million. 

The province said SaskEnergy and SaskPower will now pay grants-in-lieu property taxes on all their buildings, and SaskEnergy will charge a new municipal surcharge. Previously, only 109 communities collected this three per cent charge on consumers' energy bills. This was elimainted last year. City council will have the opportunity to sit down and discuss whether or not they want to opt-in on collecting the new five per cent surcharge, which could net the city an added $834,000. This influx of cash, however, is dampend by a rollback in offset payments.

While Cody said he anticipated revenue sharing dollars from PST to be down, he expected the province to back-fill some of the losses. After the city lost millions of dollars last year, Cody said he found it hard to be content with the thin new revenue options.

“Are we supposed to be laughing and happy? I don’t think so. We’re a little upset. We worked hard on keeping our tax increase for residents down to 1.5 per cent, despite losing $3.2 million, and yet we get $800,000,” he said. “I didn’t think it was as fair as it should be.”

Dionne noted the $800,000 will not cover many of the city’s contracts for salary increases. He said the city is almost certainly going to be challenged due to layoffs last year.

“Our unions better be listening up. Labour is our greatest cost. I’m not going to shoot them in the foot, but I’m not going to buy them a new pair of shoes,” he said. “They are going to have to be our partners because we only have one taxpayer. We don’t want to put our residential taxes back up.”

Overall, Cody branded the budget as a “chintzy, tidbit budget,” saying there were little odds and ends here and there, but nothing substantial stood out.

“I’m not looking forward to the next year in terms of what people need in education, health, and social services. There’s nothing that’s going to be of great help,” he said. “They don’t have any money, but that’s not our fault.”

 

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On Twitter: @JournoMarr

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