Regina city council has decided to wait another week before making any tough decisions on how to fill a financial hole created after the provincial budget was unveiled.
Delegation after delegation spoke out Monday night during council’s regular meeting. Many questioned city administration’s recommendations.
Roughly half the gallery was filled with lawn bowlers who turned up to voice their displeasure about a proposal to close the Leslie Lawn Bowling Greens.
“The club is an integral part of keeping Regina citizens active,” said Doug Normand with the Regina Lawn Bowling Club. “Closing the facility leaves no option for Regina lawn bowlers to continue to participate in their sport.”
“I feel this is extremely short sighted of administration and council to totally close a club with little to no notice,” said Kelly Mentanko, whose son lawn bowls.
The city estimated closing the club would save $65,300 in future years.
That’s just part of what’s being suggested to make up a $10.3 million shortfall in 2017, created after the provincial government removed grants in lieu from SaskPower and SaskEnergy. Everything is on the table from a further 2.5 per cent tax hike, to $1 million less for Regina police, to increases on how much drivers pay to park, to changes in the way garbage collection and transit is offered. The city could also end the Treecycle, household hazardous waste, and snow busters programs as well.
The Regina Airport Authority could have its property tax exemption from the city removed.
“A decision to remove exemptions, in turn, will increase costs to airlines and passengers flying to and from Regina and hamper future service develop and growth,” said airport CEO Richmond Graham.
It’s being called unprecedented for the city to go back and reopen its budget, a move that nobody on the current council can remember ever doing. The 2017 budget had just been finalized and passed by council in mid-February.
Many groups outlined how they were told of the recommendations on very short notice, surprising to a lot of them. That’s not lost on Mayor Michael Fougere, who pointed to when the provincial budget came down and did the same thing to him.
“We have literally days to come up with a budget that fills that gap, so is it fair? Probably not, but I’m not sure what else we can do,” he questioned. “There’s not a lot of time for any discussion with anyone. That’s part of the problem. That’s why we are frustrated.”
Fougere indicated council wanted the week to absorb what they heard from delegations before making any final decisions. Those will be made on April 18 at 5:30 p.m. when council meets again.
The mayor said he understands that, whatever decisions are made, they are likely not going to sit well with some.
“We’re forced to make changes that affect literally everyone across the city, so no decision is going to be easy.”