Mayor stresses need to reduce cost of city operations even more
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark says city hall will continue to explore all options to lower the 2018 property tax hike, including seeking increased taxation powers from the province.
Clark held a news conference Tuesday to tout a City of Saskatoon report detailing how efforts to cut costs and find more efficient ways of delivering services have saved the city close to $289 million since 2009.
Even with the savings, Clark said he has heard from residents who are concerned about the potential for another big property tax increase in 2018. The city’s latest budget update shows a potential property tax increase of 5.77 per cent for 2018 just to maintain current service levels.
The pending tax increase is compounded by reduced revenues from the province, Clark said.
“We’re continuing to work and advocate with the province for a fair and sustainable funding plan into the future, but we recognize that revenues are not the same as they have been in some of those boom times.”
Clark said he is talking with other municipal leaders through the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association about the possibility of greater taxation powers from the province. Clark admitted talks with the province have not gone far and that no single tool has been identified by municipalities.
He mentioned a tax on gasoline sales as a possibility to pay for road maintenance at Tuesday’s news conference, a suggestion Clark also made in August 2013 while still a city councillor.
Material handed out at the news conference included a pamphlet stating that since 2009, the city has cut $144 million in costs through “creative infrastructure solutions” and saved $145 million through “operational efficiencies.”
Clark held aloft thick annual reports from several years that detailed the city’s efforts to cut costs and find savings. Those initiatives must continue, he stressed.
He cited the new energy-efficient police headquarters, which has housed the police service since 2014, as an example that has reduced annual costs for power and heating by about $650,000.
The decision to close a firehall on Taylor Street and build a new one on Clarence Avenue South will save the city $6 million in capital costs and $3 million in annual operating costs by eliminating the need for another new firehall, one report suggests.
The report also suggests the city is saving about $500,000 in annual leasing costs because it bought the former downtown post office building in 2013 for $13.4 million.