Provincial Budget Update

The recent provincial budget – and its possible impacts on Saskatoon – have been in the news a lot lately. If you’re interested in learning more, visit this page or read the following Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a grant-in-lieu?
Instead of traditional property taxes, the Provincial government has paid the City of Saskatoon grants-in-lieu of taxes and rights of way that SaskPower and SaskEnergy utilities operate within Saskatoon, other cities towns and villages.  This has been the arrangement for more than 60 years.

How does the province’s decision to cut out grants-in-lieu affect Saskatoon residents?
This decision will have an annual impact of $11.4 million dollars to the City, equivalent to a 5.63% property tax increase. It forces City Council to choose between raising taxes and/or making cuts to core services such as snow clearing, leisure facilities, police, or fire.  In other words, the provincial government-owned power and gas companies will still charge their customers the same amount, but instead of passing some of the cash they collect on to cities, towns and villages for the municipal services those companies use, the government is keeping that money.

Does this mean my City of Saskatoon, SaskEnergy, and/or SaskPower bill will go up or down?
There will be no change to the City’s utility charges. Although the Province will no longer provide these grants-in-lieu payments to the City, it intends to keep collecting these amounts through their utility bills (SaskPower, SaskEnergy and TransGas) and then transfer the money to the provincial government’s General Revenue Fund account. The City’s bill does not decrease, because we match SaskPower’s rates.

Did the City know about the grants-in-lieu cut?
No, the grants-in-lieu cut was not made known to municipalities before the government announced the provincial budget. The provincial government’s move will have a huge impact on over 100 cities, towns and villages across the province. The City of Yorkton, for example, would lose the equivalent of 58% in revenue sharing.

When will the cuts become effective?
We understand that as of April 1, 2017, these grants-in-lieu will no longer be paid.

I keep hearing about the “municipal surcharge,” what is that?
The municipal surcharge is different than the GIL.  All cities receive a 10% municipal charge that is applied to the SaskPower Bill of all residents and business in the City. This “flow through” charge of 10% is collected from SaskPower’s customers and passed onto the City on a monthly basis. This 10% surcharge was established to compensate all municipalities in Saskatchewan for lost revenues from the sale of former city electrical utilities to SaskPower.  Although the Cities of Saskatoon and Swift Current retained ownership of their electrical utilities, these cities negotiated for the same 10% municipal surcharge for the areas outside of their power company coverage area.

Why can’t the City just fill this gap and take it from one of the reserves?
This reduction is a permanent operating budget adjustment that requires back-filling by ongoing funds. Taking funds from a reserve would be a one-time solution which would have to back-filled in 2018 and future years to come. The reserve funds are our savings account and are there to cover us for unforeseen events, such as excessive snowfall, emergencies, and as an asset replacement fund. It is not to cover our day-to-day operating expenses. We already know our bridge repair reserves are insufficiently funded today to meet our long term needs. We have been trying to build a parks rehabilitation reserve. Pulling money out of our reserves, transfers this problem down the line and leaves us to deal with unexpected situations out of our operating budget.

What’s going to happen to the Meewasin Valley Authority?
The City of Saskatoon recognizes the importance of Meewasin and has already increased our investment to $1.043 million in its civic 2017 operating budget. The implications of this Provincial budget cut are yet to be fully known, but the City will be actively engaged to find a way to keep Meewasin as a lead steward of our river valley.

Is there any way this can be stopped?
Saskatoon’s Mayor and Council are working with cities, towns, villages and the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association in the hopes of addressing the Provincial Government about the long-term impact this will have. Cities are the economic engines of Saskatchewan.

What is revenue sharing and how does it impact the City?
Revenue sharing is when the Government of Saskatchewan distributes the equivalent of one percentage point of the Provincial Sales Tax to municipalities. The City will receive $330,000 more than it budgeted for, as a result of Census population increases being applied to the allocation. The allocation is higher than what the City projected in the 2017 Budget and totals $46.43 million, resulting in a 2017 budget impact equivalent to a tax decrease of 0.16%. In the last 10 years, 56,441 people have moved to Saskatoon which is a 26% increase and has required the construction of new neighbourhoods and necessary infrastructure.

Budget 2017 Update

Hello residents,

The new council has been hard at work since the October election starting with orientation, committee meetings, the budget process, and Council. Here are a few highlights of the work we’ve done so far.

Budget 2017

In late November/early December, Council reviews and approved the City’s budget for 2017. After about two days of debate, Council finalized the budget for the year ahead, which brings with it a property tax increase of 3.98%. This property tax increase will be distributed in the following way: 1.93% will go to the Roadway Levy to improve the condition of roads, lanes, and sidewalks, 0.55% will go to the Snow and Ice Levy to improve the snow and ice program, and 1.41% will go to remaining civic programs and services.

Here are some other highlights from the 2017 operating budget:

•Over $61.7 million invested in Building Better Roads including Road Maintenance, Snow & Ice Management and Street Cleaning and Sweeping
•Over $13.6 million for the continued maintenance and design of the City’s growing park infrastructure
•$5.0 million invested in Access Transit, including additional operators which will provide an additional 4,800 rides to customers on an annual basis
•$41.2 million invested in the delivery of Transit services to deliver 1,688 bus stops across 35 bus routes and 276 km of city streets
•$97.5 million invested in the Saskatoon Police Service including 6 new Constables.

On the capital side, here are a few highlights from the 2017 budget:

•$28.7 million in Transit related infrastructure and planning as part of the Federal Public Transit Infrastructure Fund
•$21.6 million in 2017 for the repair, replacement and renewal of existing water and wastewater infrastructure under the Federal Clean Water and Wastewater Fund
•$7.0 million for Phase I of Recovery Park to improve Landfill sustainability
•$32.1 million dedicated to paved roadway and sidewalk preservation
•$5.3 million for the replacement of Fire Station No. 3 to improve community safety

Traffic on Glasgow Street

Many residents have been asking questions and sharing concerns about the traffic calming measure that have been put in place on Glasgow Street in Avalon. The City has now collected traffic data from that street and in summary, the data does not show that the measures are having the desired effect of slowing traffic (although traffic volumes have reduced, which was one of the other desired outcomes). As a result, the city will be holding a meeting with area residents in January to discuss some alternative options to the current diverter system to reduce traffic speed and volume in this area. If you live in the area you will receive an invitation to this meeting, and there will also be opportunities to provide your feedback online.

That’s all for now, but if you have any questions or comments please feel free to pass them along!

Mairin Loewen

Ward 7 Update: September, 2016

Hi all,
This term on City Council is drawing to a close, but I’d like to provide one more update to you on some of the issues taking place at city hall and around the ward before the election period begins.

Transit Negotiations

As you’ve probably heard, ATU issued strike notice to the City last Friday at 5:00. Although talks took place throughout the weekend, progress has slowed and ATU has declined to take the City’s most recent offer to its membership for a vote. This offer includes a 10% wage increase over four years as well as an additional $1.00 per hour increase for Access Transit drivers in order to bring their wages to parity with other operators by 2019.

The major sticking point in this round of negotiations has been the pension plan. Pensions are complex, and I know there are rumours circulating about what exactly is happening with ATU’s pension. The summary is that the City negotiated changes to General Plan which were designed to secure the long-term sustainability of the plan. The plan remains a defined benefit plan and the changes do not affect retired members. These changes were approved by 8 of the 9 civic unions, but ATU has been seeking a separate deal on pensions. If you’d like to read more details about the pension issue or negotiations in general, go here.

Unfortunately, there is not much clarity at this point about what job action might look like and how it might affect residents. ATU has indicated that there will not be any job action before Friday, but please watch the city website for updates.

Glasgow Street

Over the last two weeks I’ve received a number of calls and emails about the curbing that’s been installed on Glasgow Street. I want to provide residents with a bit of background about why this curbing was installed and some information about what will happen going forward.

The curbing that has been installed on Glasgow was put in place in order to respond to concerns about traffic speeds and volumes along that stretch of road. The designs were proposed and ultimately approved as part of the Avalon Traffic Review, a resident-led process that included three public meetings throughout 2015 and early 2016. The traffic calming measures were installed as a one-year trial during which speed and accident data is being measured. At the conclusion of the pilot project, this data will be shared with the public before anything is made permanent. Some residents have been asking me to have this curbing removed, but because this was a neighbourhood-driven process I believe any further decisions about the project need to be taken out to the community rather than being made exclusively at City Hall.

I know there are some concerns in the area about this, and I would ask residents to share any specific questions or complaints with me so that the city staff responsible for the project can make adjustments as necessary. I will communicate any news about this project to residents as things progress.

Stonebridge Interchange

The interchange between Vic Boulevard in Stonebridge and Highway 11 is nearing completion and will likely open within the next couple of weeks. Residents in the area have identified some concerns about lighting and the visual impact of this infrastructure in the last week or so. We are working with Saskatoon Light and Power to reduce the impacts of the lights on residents in the area, so if anyone has any questions or concerns about this please let me know and I will ensure you are kept informed. Once the details around the opening date are confirmed the City will release them to the public, so keep an eye on the city website for more details.

Upcoming Election

The municipal election will take place on October 26th. While Council does not meet during the election period, you are still welcome to contact me with any city or neighbourhood issues that come up during the next month. However, if your questions pertain to the election or my campaign, please use my campaign contact information instead.

Have a great fall!

All the best,
Mairin

Ward 7 Update: Summer 2016

Hello Ward 7 Residents,

I hope this summer has treated you well and you’ve enjoyed some time relaxing with family and friends. Read on for some updates from City Hall:

Summer construction

Summer is a busy time for all kinds of construction projects around the city, and many of these projects are well underway (if not completed). Commuters may have already noticed that the rehabilitation work on the Idylwyld Freeway (over Ruth Street) was completed ahead of schedule, and the City has just announced that the halfway point in the summer’s roadway rehabilitation season has been met. In the next few weeks residents will notice micro-surfacing projects happening all over the city, including several local streets in Ward 7. The completion of the Stonebridge interchange between Vic Boulevard and Highway 11 remains on target to be complete and operational later this fall.

The city has repaired more than 139,000 potholes, repaired 8,780 meters of sanitary sewer mains, and replaced 3,777 sidewalk panels so far this summer. In order to ensure the safe and efficient completion of the remaining work, please remember to drive carefully in work zones and wherever you see workers.

Market Mall Rezoning

At its August meeting, City Council considered a rezoning application and a discretionary use application to allow for the construction of multi-family dwellings on the north-east parking lot at Market Mall. The proposal would accommodate up to 440 units of new condominiums and the proponent for this development is Fishman Holdings, the company that owns Market Mall.

Council voted unanimously to approve these applications. In my view, this type of infill aligns with the City’s stated objectives to increase density within Circle Drive. This type of project also has the potential to revitalize the mall, which is an important amenity to residents in the area.

This proposal generated a large number of responses, both against and in favour of the development, and I’d like to thank everyone who shared their feedback with me. As a result of the feedback I received, Council made a number of additional recommendations to speak to concerns raised by residents:

  • That the administration work with the proponent to ensure that the traffic signals at Preston and Adelaide are in place to coincide with the beginning of construction and report back with details of construction timelines and financing of the traffic signals (this was a condition of approval).
  • That the proponent update the appropriate city committee detailing plans to communicate with area residents and meet with neighbouring community associations;
  • That the administration report back with additional details of the proponent’s on-site storm-water management plan
  • That the administration coordinate a community meeting and complete a pedestrian accessibility and mobility review in the Nutana Suburban area with a focus on the Market Mall area in a year’s time.

I recognize there are residents who were hoping for a different outcome on this decision, and I know this development will be a big change for the area. However, I believe this type if infill investment will bring positive change in terms of the long-term vibrancy of the neighbourhood and will support the sustainability of transit and other amenities for residents.

Clarence Avenue Fire Hall

At Council’s June meeting the relocation of Fire Hall #3 was officially approved. This hall is currently located on Taylor Street and York Avenue and is being relocated for a number of reasons, including the need to improve coverage and response times to Stonebridge. The relocation of this fire hall will allow the City to avoid building an additional fire hall in Stonebridge and instead use Fire Hall #3 to cover both Stonebridge and older neighbourhoods in Ward 7. This decision will save millions of dollars in both operating and capital costs and will eliminate redundancies in the coverage areas of existing fire halls.

The new location of Fire Hall #3 will be the north parking lot of St Martins United Church (a land purchase has been negotiated with the church), and the land on Melville Street which had been previously dedicated to a future fire hall will be sold by the city. Construction of the new Hall #3 will begin in 2017, and the city administration is preparing to implement traffic calming measures and improvements along/near Clarence Avenue in preparation for its operation.

If you have questions about any of these updates (or any other city issues) please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

All the best,

Mairin Loewen

Fire Pit Regulations

In light of the early summer weather and dry conditions, the Fire Department has issued the following reminder to residents:

Due to the unusually dry conditions we have experienced this year, the Saskatoon Fire Department would like to take this time to remind everyone of the regulations for residential fire pits. Currently, we have not issued a fire ban within city limits.

Every use of a fire pit is subject to the following conditions:

Fire must be contained within a non-combustible fire box constructed of material such as cement, brick or metal and covered with a heavy gauge metal screen. SFD recommends that fire pits be situated at least three metres from any combustible materials (ie. fences or buildings).

The size of the fire box of any outdoor burning facility shall not exceed .61 cubic metres.

Only cut, seasoned wood or charcoal shall be used to fuel outdoor fires. Burning tree branches and garden refuse in a fire pit is not permitted.

All outdoor fires shall have responsible supervision at all times.
Always have a source of water nearby to extinguish once you are done.

No person shall light an outdoor fire when the weather conditions are conducive to creating a running fire or allowing the smoke from the fire to be a nuisance to another person (smoke drift).

If smoke from an open-air fire causes an unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of another person’s property, the fire shall be extinguished immediately.

The following items are not permitted to be burned in fire pits within Saskatoon city limits:

– Rubbish
– Garden refuse
– Manure, livestock or animal carcasses
– Any material that is classified as a dangerous good
– Any material that will create dense black smoke when burned
– Any material that will create a foul odour when burned.
– A video with information on fire pits can be viewed at Fire Pit Safety

The use of fire pits in Saskatoon is regulated by Fire and Protective Services Bylaw No. 7990. Please note: SFD will extinguish any fires that do not comply with the Bylaw.

Residents who would like to report a fire or fire pit should call 306-975-3030.

Projected Roadway Plan: 2016-2018

If you’re curious about the work that’s planned for Saskatoon’s roadways over the next three years, the map below shows the areas planned for rehabilitation between now and 2018. The map also indicates which roadways have been treated since 2014 when Council began dedicating additional tax revenue to road work. This is a projected plan and may change slightly over time, but it does give a general sense of which areas of the city will be treated in the years ahead.

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