When it comes to finding a way to fill a $10.3 million funding shortfall, Regina Mayor Michael Fougere is letting people know difficult decisions will need to be made.
The City of Regina was forced to look at its budget again after the provincial budget on March 22 revealed the city would lose the grants in lieu program and receive less money from provincial sales tax (PST) revenue because of a slower economy.
Friday afternoon, details of the city’s amended budget were released. Highlighted in it was a recommended 2.5 per cent mill rate increase, which would be on top of the approved 3.99 per cent increase in the budget in February. Other recommendations included a $1 million reduction in the Regina Police Service budget and a 20 per cent increase in street use permits and traffic bylaw fees.
“This is the administration’s best efforts to balance our budget because we must balance our budget each and every year,” explained Fougere.
The additional increase in the mill rate would create an estimated $5.25 million in revenue for the city, however, Fougere pointed out that is not set in stone just yet.
“That’s the recommendation but that may not be where we end up.”
The original increase of 3.99 per cent would have cost residents with a house worth $350,000 around $97 extra per year. If the 2.5 per cent were to be added, that cost would rise to just over $140.
“That $11 or $12 million gap that we have is a direct result of the province downloading onto us, and for a taxpayer, and I am one of them, I’m not happy having to reopen a budget and probably seeing a mill rate increase which will be very difficult to take.”
The administration’s recommendation does not include the use of the millions of dollars the city has in reserve funds. Fougere said he stands behind that.
“Those reserves are there for a reason and they’re not there to fill operating gaps or downloads from the province.”
Fougere stated there’s over $200 million in reserve funds, although he could not provide a specific number.
“You don’t build a city by draining your reserves. The province drained its reserves, its funds, and now it’s going back to other taxpayers to pay for that and we don’t want to do that ourselves.”
The amended budget also pointed to $4.1 million in savings from service reductions like the $1 million cut to the policing budget.
Regina city council will vote on the amended budget on Monday.