Cash woes hit maintenance of buses, parks bridges
Despite having reserve funds of $158 million, the City of Saskatoon is trying to address a $16.15-million annual funding gap to maintain buses, parks and bridges.
A report headed to the Nov. 14 meeting of council’s governance and priorities committee outlines the need for more annual funds to maintain buses and other infrastructure.
Of the $16.1 million shortfall, the city estimates $6.2 million more a year is needed to maintain its 152-bus Saskatoon Transit fleet and its 26-bus Access Transit fleet. Another $4.15 million a year is needed to adequately repair bridges, pedestrian walkways and overpasses and $5.8 million a year more is needed to maintain parks and park amenities.
The need for more money for bridges was identified a year ago and a dedicated property tax levy was recommended to begin in 2018. However, a tough budget year due to reduced provincial revenues postponed that plan.
“The funding plan proposes to delay funding until 2019 due to the significant financial pressures facing the 2018 budget from the loss of provincial revenues,” the report says.
In 2016, a dedicated levy of 0.51 per cent for bridge repair was proposed for four years, starting next year. The report to be considered Tuesday outlines a possible plan to increase funding that would introduce a property tax levy averaging just above one per cent for eight years starting in 2019.
The parks funding shortfall, which includes maintenance of amenities like park benches, pools and sports fields, was revealed in a city report last month. The city funnels money to reserve funds to pay for repair and upgrades to infrastructure.
The administration recommends the report be forwarded to city budget deliberations at the end of the month just in case some funds become available, so that replenishing the reserve funds can start as soon as possible. The preliminary property tax increase for 2018 sits at 4.96 per cent.
Under the eight-year plan, the reserve fund to maintain bridges would be funded sufficiently by 2022, while funding for buses and parks would not reach sufficient levels until 2026.
The city introduced a dedicated road repair levy in 2014 to direct more money to upgrading the city ’s crumbling streets, often rated as the top priority by residents.
A June city report showed reserve funds overall had climbed to a “healthy” $158 million in 2016, up from $141 million in 2015.