COVID-19 Response: City Finances
The City is doing its part to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases in Saskatoon. We have made many staffing and service changes so that our employees can safely deliver services to residents and to make sure people remain physically apart from one another. This way we can all work together by staying apart – it will protect the health of essential frontline healthcare staff, core service workers and first-responders. These actions, in turn, protect all of us.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for the entire economy, and far-reaching financial impacts for citizens, businesses and governments.
The City continues to follow physical distancing and stay at home orders and has experienced lost revenues due to closures of City facilities & venues, and increased costs to keep our employees and the public as safe as possible.
How is the City addressing the financial impacts created by COVID-19 and providing for the needs of citizens - today and tomorrow?
On April 27, 2020, City Council approved a wide-ranging plan to ease financial stress on the City and to keep up the core civic services Saskatoon residents rely on every day.
The City’s balanced financial strategy, combined with practical money management will work together to reduce a sizable portion of the City’s projected 2020 COVID-related deficit. The full April 27, 2020, Council report is available here; the report details various options Administration proposed to address deficit scenarios.
COVID-19 RELATED DEFICIT SCENARIOS FOR THE CITY: TIED TO WHEN THE PROVINCE LIFTS RESTRICTIONS
In the wake of the provincial government’s plan to re-open the Saskatchewan economy, and the timing and lifting of various restrictions for physical distancing and for when services reopen, there are three scenarios that would result in estimated negative impacts to the City's deficit as follows:
- If the Province ends restrictions by June 30, 2020 – deficit approximately $32.2 million
- If the Province ends restrictions by September 30, 2020 – deficit approximately $52.7 million
- If the Province end restrictions by December 31, 2020 – deficit approximately $68.6 million
However: with the City offsetting savings attributable to items such as fuel cost reduction, reduced workforce, reduced bulk power charges, and utility stabilization reserves, the City would be able to lower the preliminary projected preliminary deficits to:
- If the Province ends restrictions June 30, 2020 – deficit of approximately $20.2 million
- If the Province ends restrictions September 30,2020 – deficit of approximately $32.0 million
- If the Province ends restrictions December 31,2020 – deficit of approximately $43.0 million
Planning for the future, the City is actively working to reduce the COVID-19 related deficit even more
Through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the federal government is being asked to consider a relief program for the municipal sector, but the outcome of this request is still uncertain.
To be proactive, City Administration has proposed several options to manage the remaining COVID-19 shortfall. Implementing the following options would result in savings totalling $9.5 million:
- Freezing all hiring;
- Freezing non-essential spending;
- Reducing travel and training;
- Reducing costs for park maintenance through reduced staffing levels; and
- Using $2.8M of fiscal stabilization reserve in 2020; holding the remaining $2M for 2021.
With these options and saving factored in, the City's remaining projected deficit tied to the timing of the province lifting restrictions would further be reduced to:
- If the Province ends restrictions by June 30, 2020 – deficit approximately $10.1 million (down from original projected deficit of $32.2 million)
- If the Province ends restrictions by September 30, 2020 – deficit approximately $22.0 million (down from original projected deficit of $52.7 million)
- If the Province ends restrictions by December 31,2020 – deficit approximately $32.9 million (down from original projected deficit of $68.6 million)
As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, the Administration will update financial projections and continue discussions with other orders of government for possible assistance.
The City’s COVID-19 related financial recovery strategy also lines up with the guidelines set out in the provincial government’s Re-Open Saskatchewan plan.
What Saskatoon residents can expect from the City as we all move forward – together:
2021 Property Taxes Not Affected by COVID-19.
- Even with a projected deficit, the financial response plan Council approved on April 27, 2020, does not include any new increases to municipal property tax in 2021 as a result of COVID-19.
- In November 2019, City Council approved property tax increases of 3.70% for 2020 and 3.87% in 2021 through the Multi-Year Business Plan and Budget. These increases are proceeding as planned and are unaffected by COVID-19.
Core Civic Services maintained: Those you rely on every day.
Police, Fire, Transit, Waste & Recycling Power, Water & Sewer Services, Landfill Operations, Road Maintenance, Construction & Major Projects, Cemetery Services, Street Sweeping and more.
The City continuing to make responsible financial decisions to:
- Reduce overall spending
- Address and make up shortfalls by using the Fiscal Stabilization Reserve
- Work with other levels of government on solutions and financial help
If discussions with other orders of government do not fully address the City’s funding needs, further reductions to spending in 2021 including possible deferral of some capital works will be considered to address any remaining deficit.
Planned construction projects will continue; important investments have been made to keep City infrastructure in shape now and for the future.
- The City will continue to serve an important role in keeping our community working as we all move through this pandemic together. We will continue to invest in our economy & infrastructure, and our 2020 budgeted construction projects will go forward this year.
- Investing approximately $390 million in financial activity will help keep our economy going, and businesses able to hire and keep people working.
Only minor changes to some services.
- Street Sweeping - Starting May 25, watch for yellow signs and please move your car if you can; cars may be towed nearby but tickets will not be issued.
- Parks maintenance - for the safety of our staff and the public, there will be a slight decrease in the number of times that parks are mowed and watered this summer.
- Waste, Recycling & Green Cart Collection - There are no changes to the pick-up schedules for waste, recycling and green carts. Pick-up will continue to be weekly in the summer for household garbage. Check the Collection Calendar for your property's scheduled pick-up days.
Postponement of services that impact residents financially.
- The Lead Pipe Replacement Program previously scheduled for Summer 2020 will not take place.
The new Central Library project proceeding.
Saskatoon Public Library (SPL) is a charitable organization, governed by a volunteer board, appointed by City Council, under the Public Libraries Act. This legislation makes SPL a distinct entity with taxing authority separate from the City of Saskatoon. The new Central Library is not a City of Saskatoon capital project.
SPL purchased the land for the new central library drawing from reserve funds in February 2020. The funding plan outlines scheduled incremental tax increases between 2009 and 2026 to fund the capital program. The library estimates that the average homeowner (with an assessed home of $371,000) will pay an extra $5 per year in the years 2020-2026 to fund the project.
According to SPL’s business case, the construction of a new central library is estimated to contribute approximately $132 million to Canada’s GDP and 1,043 full-time equivalent jobs in Canada over three years. The large majority, nearly 70%, of these impacts will occur in Saskatchewan. These added jobs and GDP will be incredibly important to our community as we recover from the current economic fallout from COVID-19.
Where will I find more information and updates in the future?
As the pandemic situation continues to evolve, the City will continue to update financial forecasts on this webpage, and through news releases to the public.