Saskatoon’s mayor and city councillors will meet on Monday to debate the 2020-2021 city budget.
Two issues set for discussion will be funding of the Saskatoon Police Service and the proposed new central library.
“What I’ve heard from residents in some of the central areas is that the (police) response is not what they’d like it to be,” said Hilary Gough, Ward 2 Councillor, on Friday.
“They want to see more resources and, in particular, in that core area of Pleasant Hill,” said Gough, whose ward includes Pleasant Hill.
The proposed budget, which was created by city administration and unveiled at the end of October, has allocated funds to hire seven new police officers in the next two years, plus additional staff.
But the Police Commission Board said that eight more officers, in addition to the seven in the current, are needed. The new constables would allow police to maintain a presence at the new supervised consumption site and in Pleasant Hill.
“The board was of the view that the resources, identified by a careful study of what had worked, and not worked, in other cities, need to be put in place before the site opens,” said police board chair Darlene Brander in November.
The new officers would require an additional $1.6 million over two years.
The document also allocates $153 million for the Capital Budget — money set aside to repair and improve major infrastructure projects in the city — to be used towards the proposed new central library location.
“I think the library conversation is going to be interesting,” said Ward 1 Coun. Darren Hill on Friday.
“If all of us at council understand the financial flow and how that’s going to work, then it’s not that big of a scary hit that people are thinking (it is).”
Fellow councillor Troy Davies previously said that he won’t support standalone buildings moving forward.
“If we make this decision at budget now … we’re going to have close to three per cent tax increase every year for the next six years without even touching the budget,” he said on Nov. 13.
The budget requires a property tax increase of 3.23 per cent for 2020 and 3.54 per cent for 2021 — just under seven per cent total.
That equals, according to the document, about $16.6 million.
Almost 60 per cent of that amount is dedicated to the salaries of city employees.
The tax increase is less than what was originally proposed. City administration calculated the number based on what would be needed in revenue to keep the city’s services functioning while also investing in future projects. That would have given taxpayers an increase of more than eight per cent.
In June council directed the administration to find ways to lower the property tax.
Any more cuts to the tax would mean reducing the services even further.
“Seven is a high number — I think it’s too much,” Hill said.
“I’m not sure, at this point, what I would consider cutting.”
The discussions are scheduled to begin on Monday and end on Wednesday.
With files from David Giles
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