By Guy Quenneville
Let the number crunching begin!
The first draft of the City of Saskatoon’s 2018 budget will be released this afternoon, coming at a time of considerable financial pressure for the city.
Revenues are down on a number of fronts, including the amount of money the city gets from the provincial government.
In 2018 alone, lost grants-in-lieu revenue from the province is expected to total around $3.1 million, to say nothing of an additional $3-million decrease in provincial revenue sharing.
That, plus slumping revenues from areas like speed enforcement and landfill services, has sparked a summer-long exercise in trying to find savings, or drum up new sources of cash, to make up an estimated $10.9-million revenue gap next year.
But some of the big-ticket ideas for doing that — such as charging for waste as a utility and reviving an amusement tax — either have yet to be approved by councillors or are too ambitious to implement in time for 2018.
The result? An estimated 4.96-per-cent property tax hike for 2018. Councillors will try to hack that figure down between today and Nov. 29, when the final budget is currently expected to be approved.
Saskatoon residents were left with a 4.82-per-cent property tax hike in 2017, following hastily-assembled city council meetings made necessary by a provincial government budget that turfed the grants-in-lieu program, a crucial source of revenue for the city.
Today’s initial pass at the budget by city staffers will be made public at 1 p.m. CST.
In its latest update last month, the city estimated its 2018 operations budget at $491 million, up by $13.3 million from 2017.
The bulk of the $13-million bump is tied directly to inflation and locked-in wage increases, as outlined by the city below.
Police budgets for explosives site
Another part of the $13-million bump comes from planned extra spending of $2.8 million by the Saskatoon Police Force in 2018, compared to what it spent this year.
The service has already released its draft operating and capital budgets for next year.
Highlights in the capital budget include $350,000 for a new explosives disposal unit, alternately described as an “explosives containment vessel,” plus $860,000 for new vehicles.