2019 Proposed Budget: Maintains Services, While Investing in Infrastructure & Strategic Priorities
The 2019 Preliminary Business Plan and Budget proposes to keep service levels up while being able to put money into the needed infrastructure and priorities citizens want and need today and for the future. It invests in the actions and projects outlined by City Council’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan to ensure that Saskatoon remains a great place to live, work, learn and play.
“Over the years, citizens told us they want us to maintain the civic services they rely on every day,” says Kerry Tarasoff, Chief Financial Officer. “A significant portion of the proposed 2019 Budget goes to covering costs for growth and asset preservation. We’re taking care of today’s needs and carefully planning for community requirements in years to come.”
This year, a four-step process was used to build the City’s 2019 Budget:
- Costs to maintain current service levels were determined;
- City Council set a property tax target of 4.0% - 4.5% to maintain current service levels and to allocate dollars to support City Council’s Strategic Priorities;
- Business plans were developed to align with the proposed property tax rate and City Council’s priorities; and
- The business plans were then incorporated into the proposed 2019 Budget.
To address inflation, $10.6 million will be allocated with $3.5 million to the Saskatoon Police Service, and the remaining for other civic services.
To address such growth, $6.9 million is proposed in 2019: $1.1 million is for the Saskatoon Police Service, and $5.8 million for other civic services.
With these considerations, the 2019 Operating Budget proposes total expenditures of $511.3 million. This is an increase of $20.6 million, or 4.20%, over the 2018 Operating Budget.
“With a projected growth rate around 3%, Saskatoon expects to add population about one and a half times the size of Humboldt,” Tarasoff says. “Because of this, our city remains one of the fastest growing in Canada and we have to plan for that.”
The 2019 Capital Budget – used for hard infrastructure projects preparing the city for continued growth – proposes $259.7 million in investments with a continued focus on roads, transit, water and wastewater distribution systems.
A total of $7.78 million in options aimed at achieving City Council’s 2018-2021 Strategic Priorities was presented to the Governance and Priorities Committee in August. The Preliminary Budget includes $2.6 million to be utilized for the implementation of a portion of these strategic initiatives, to be considered during City Council’s 2019 Business Plan and Budget Review. While other specific initiatives to be implemented for 2019 have yet to be finalized, City Council will be presented with a report and associated recommendations for consideration at their Budget Review.
The 2019 Operating Budget stays within City Council’s tax target by proposing a property tax increase of 4.5%. For a homeowner with an average assessed property value of $371,000, this equates to approximately $80 per year, or $7 a month.
Provincial law says cities must pass a balanced budget each year. A 4.5% property tax increase will generate enough money to balance the 2019 Budget, with a 1% increase in the property tax equal to $2.3 million. Here’s how the required property tax increase for 2019 was determined:
Operating expenses – Operating revenues = Revenue gap (property tax fills the gap)
As mentioned, for the 2019 Budget, the City will need a total of $20.6 million more to operate services at the levels citizens want. The operating revenues, or the money the City brings in, is subtracted, leaving the City with a revenue gap of $10.4 million.
This year, the 2019 Preliminary Business Plan and Budget Review is scheduled for November 26, 27 and 28 in City Council Chambers.
Full details on the investments the City has made in various programs, initiatives and projects through the 2019 Preliminary Budget are on the City’s website at saskatoon.ca/budget.