Proposed Regina city budget includes 7 per cent tax hike

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February 4, 2014 - 10:47am Updated: February 4, 2014 - 10:05pm
Regina City Hall. Photo by Courtney Mintenko/News Talk Radio.
Regina City Hall. Photo by Courtney Mintenko/News Talk Radio.

The average homeowner in Regina could be paying approximately $220 more a year for property tax and water and sewer utilities combined.

Regina city council released the 2014 Municipal Budget on Tuesday morning with a proposal for a seven per cent property tax increase. The first six per cent is for general property taxes but revenue from the additional one per cent would be put into a special reserve that would pay specific attention to improving residential streets sooner.

“To fix local streets that have not been done, not been looked at for 20 or 30 years,” explained Mayor Michael Fougere.

He said in this budget that amounts to $1.7 million. Several councilors had previously expressed their desire to have this issue addressed and now Fougere plans to have this as a permanent budget fixture for future years. In terms of which streets are classified as the most in-need of repairs, a system for that will be determined later in the year.

The seven per cent number would be the highest Regina has seen in a number of years. Over the last five years the city has averaged a tax increase of 3.27 per cent. That’s lower than Saskatoon, Edmonton and Calgary.

The operating budget is seeing an increase in expenditures of $31.2 million or 9.1 per cent to $372 million. Spending is also up in the capital budget, jumping by $63.2 million or 63.8 per cent to $162.2 million. The water and sewer utility budgets sit at $143.7 million which reflect an eight per cent hike for 2014, translating to about $10 a month.

Highlights of the capital and operating budgets include $62.1 million for repairing and maintaining roads, bridges and alleys while a total of $6.5 million will be used for new road construction.

The city’s budget also has plans to double the amount drivers pay per hour at parking meters. Right now it costs $1 an hour. It could be bumped up to $2 for every hour to be more comparable with other cities such as Saskatoon. There is no indication when that might be administered.

Fougere stands behind the budgets presented on Tuesday and believes there’s the appropriate amount of services offered for the level of tax.

“We think we struck the balance and I think people will understand this.”

“If we don’t invest in our future, invest in growth we’ll be even further behind. We must do this today,” he added.

CHAMBER CONCERNED WITH HIKE

Not everyone feels the hike is justified.

 “All told we’re quite concerned that we’re looking at a seven per cent mill rate increase this year,” said Regina and District Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hopkins.

“This is a sizeable increase that’s not sustainable over the long term. If we continue to face mill rate increases of six, seven, eight per cent it’s just simply not sustainable.”

Hopkins said his members have made one thing clear when it comes to infrastructure, and that’s to give more attention to streets. While he’s happy with that aspect, he still thinks the other six per cent is still too high. He’d like to see the rate in the three to four per cent range instead and believes there are ways the city can still look at dropping it.

“When you look at other communities they’ll look at perhaps something like how do they do waste management, are there other alternative ways of doing things, contracting out that type of thing,” Hopkins explained.

“It may be something we have to look at.”

The public can have their say on the proposed budget at a city council meeting February 24 to look at amendments. People who wish to speak about the budget at this meeting may apply to appear as a special delegation. Written briefs must be submitted to the office of the City Clerk no later than February 19.

Written briefs must be submitted to the office of the City Clerk no later than February 19.

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