Admin. reveals preliminary mill rate increase in upcoming city budget

The city administration revealed a preliminary mileage rate increase of 4.02% in 2023 and 3.96% in 2024 as a starting point for the discussion.

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Providing an update on the development of Regina’s first multi-year budget, the city administration revealed a preliminary mill rate increase of 4.02 per cent in 2023 and 3.96 per cent in 2024.

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The city’s executive director of financial strategy and sustainability, Barry Lacey, stressed to the executive committee during its meeting on Wednesday that these increases are preliminary and intended to serve as a starting point for conversation and not a decision. final.

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But as the conversation unfolded, it was clear that there were many costly priorities that board members wanted to see play a bigger role in the budget, including increased investments as part of the energy and sustainability and housing first initiatives to address homelessness, which if all prevailed would skyrocket this mill rate increase.

Acting City Manager Jim Nicol says a motion approved by council in June to include full funding in the budget to end homelessness through a Housing First model would more than double the preliminary increase of the mill rate if it were part of the equation, increasing it from four percent to 9.5 percent.

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“I am deeply concerned that Regina residents listening to this budget discussion will be in a state of catatonic panic,” the councilman said. Bob Hawkins (Ward 2) said hours after the chat started.

“These are people who are paying sky high food bills, who are seeing interest rates on their mortgage go up, who are squeezed by an economy, who are listening to us talk about some kind of utopian state of budgeting , and that’s not what we’re doing.”

If the increase in funding requested by the Council. Shanon Zachidniak (Ward 8) was also included, Hawkins notes that the per mile rate would increase a few more percentages.

“I’m not going to vote for, and I don’t think the majority of this board is going to vote for, a 12% or 13% or 14% rate increase,” Hawkins said. “We have to make reasoned compromises keeping in mind what our citizens can afford in a very difficult economy. I think we should not lose sight of it. I don’t think the administration has lost sight of that and I think we have to be careful not to scare people away, not to discourage investment in the city because potential investors feel we’ve lost the head. ”

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But Zachidniak argued there was no time to defer funding to deal with the current climate crisis.

“It won’t get any easier or cheaper if we delay,” Zachidniak said. “We cannot afford to postpone it, not even for a year, otherwise we will not achieve our goals.”

Regina City Councilor Shanon Zachidniak (Ward 8) at City Hall Wednesday, August 11, 2021 in Regina.
Regina City Councilor Shanon Zachidniak (Ward 8) at City Hall Wednesday, August 11, 2021 in Regina. Photo by TROY FLEECE /Regina Chief’s Post
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The update also included a preliminary utility rate increase of 4.5% in 2023 (to maintain the status quo, help fund upgrades to the Buffalo Pound water treatment plant, and help to fund the water utility rate rebate program) and 4% in 2023, which will continue to help fund plant upgrades as well as maintain the status quo.

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In a pre-budget survey conducted from April 28 to May 11, the administration said it received only 1,604 responses.

Of these responses, the top three spending priorities were road construction and repair, public safety/crime/policing, and recreational/cultural facilities and programs. The administration said these priorities are consistent with previous years.

Also noteworthy are the references to cutting taxes and controlling spending, which the city heard six times more than any other comment provided in the open-ended portion of the survey.

Ninety percent of respondents supported reallocating funds to support their priorities, including Renewable Regina (the city’s energy and sustainability framework to make the city net zero by 2050) and public safety/crime/police.

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Other priorities not included in the budget due to financial pressures total $19.7 million for homelessness, transit master plan (increasing weekend service), free transit for high school students and free public transit for seniors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Roaming alone is allocated $15.4 million per year, including operating and capital costs.

Com. Dan LeBlanc (Ward 6) argued that the motion approved in June explicitly called for homelessness funding to be included in the budget, but Hawkins argued the motion was open to interpretation. He said that historically, major cost items like this would be deferred to budget time, when the board could vote to add it to the budget, not included in the budget, and then subject to deletion by the board.

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Although he agreed that this deviated from the norm, Nicol said the wording of the motion made it clear that it should be included in the budget. Either way, he said, the matter will be debated and resolved by a council decision at budget time.

Regarding the capital budget, Lacey reminded the executive committee that there are a number of potential pressures and unknowns that could significantly alter the playing field, including inflation, fuel costs, salaries and benefits (all collective agreements are currently expired), police budget requests, service partners, COVID, reserves and debt, infrastructure deficit and more.

“Let’s be real,” the adviser said. Lori Bresciani (Ward 4) said at the end of the discussion. “Each adviser has their initiatives that they want to highlight, and it’s about finding that balance.”

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The administration will continue public engagement on the budget this fall. In November, service partners will submit their proposed budgets and at the end of November, the proposed budget will be published. Deliberations and approval of the budget will take place in mid-December.

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