Property taxes are going up again in Regina and some programs and services are getting cut or changed.
Faced with a funding shortfall of $10.3 million, council decided to hike taxes another 2.5 per cent Tuesday night.
That’s equal to roughly $3.87 more a month for the average homeowner. It comes on top of a tax increase of 3.99 per cent previously approved in the original budget in February.
But after the provincial budget cut the grants in lieu to municipalities from SaskEnergy and SaskPower, council was forced to reopen its budget and find the money all in a short period of time.
“The fact that we’re even here having to redo our budget is a problem with everyone here,” said Mayor Michael Fougere.
The mayor and councillors decided that the Leslie Lawn Bowling Greens would not be closed after all. Dozens of lawn bowlers turned up to city hall last week to speak out against the proposal to close the greens. Fougere said that turnout helped council make its decision.
Council also decided not to close the Regent Park Golf Course and agreed holiday bus service should continue, along with the Play Escapes program.
Keeping those four initiatives meant $295,000 would have to be made up somewhere else.
That was eventually offset by a motion Councillor Bob Hawkins raised and got passed, one which will see parking tickets increase by $10 beginning July 1, 2017.
For him, it was better than the alternative.
“I support keeping our reserves whole,” Hawkins said.
The majority of councillors echoed that thought, saying they didn’t want to touch reserves to cover off the shortfall.
As part of finding the money, council also decided the Regina Police Service (RPS) budget would take a $1 million hit. RPS will defer some capital projects and dip into its reserves to cover that. City administration said service and response times would not be impacted.
Some programs will not continue in 2017, which includes the Treecycle, household hazardous waste and leaf and yard waste programs. The summer sweep for downtown was cut. The landfill will be reduced to winter hours and closed on statutory holidays, while garbage pickup will move to a bi-weekly schedule in the winter.
The Snow Busters program, the printed leisure guide and the condo waste rebate were also eliminated.
“Everybody feels uncomfortable and a bit of a twinge in your stomach when you think about what we’re doing in terms of service changes and mill rate increases,” said Fougere.
Even though council has figured out a way to fill its financial hole this year, Councillor Mike O’Donnell still has concerns about the future.
“I am worried sick about next year,” he said.
Moving forward, tax notices will have a better explanation for residents of how taxes are collected, a motion from O’Donnell that was passed. The motion also included tax notices to have a separate line titled “provincial download” to show the amount for the deficit in provincial funding.