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The City of Saskatoon Spending Review

Saskatoon’s city council decided to do a spending review on what to cut.  One city councillor described their efforts as “courageous”.  That’s not a word I would have used.  After many meetings, too much debate, and questionable live tweeting, the final results are known.  A paltry $1.7 million. 

Here are the cuts as gathered by Dave Hutton.  Commentary is mine.

Cuts:

Voice over internet phone savings: $151,600

Let’s hope they don’t use our company.  My work phone drops calls all of the time.

Affordable housing program reduction: $250,000

Beyond disappointed with this.  It shows a lack of vision and leadership to cut this.

Eliminate satellite office space for community associations: $20,200

Cut Victoria Park skateboard security: $7,000

Okay, there was a need for this because kids were being beaten up and charged a “user fee” by bullies and kiddie gangs.  Now we decide to cut it back.  It kind of works like the Saskatoon Police safer streets initiative.  Once you stop providing the security presence, the violence and bullying will start again.  The other option is just to subcontract out the operation of the park to the bullies.  At least the city would get a cut.

Reduce newspaper advertising: $50,000

How will council respond to Henry Dayday now?  Also, which newspaper are you cutting advertising in?  It better be Planet S. 

Close Little Chief community police station: $104,000

This is a really good idea.  It wasn’t being used and I can see a boutique or specialty store coming and doing something great with the space.  If that doesn’t happen, Riversdale BID could be housed out of it.  It would also make a great location for a New York style hot dog cart (which I can’t eat anymore).

Reduce 2012 police budget from eight to six officers: $147,300

Remove purchase of a marked police vehicle: $32,600

I really didn’t like this.  Either the city needs eight police officers or it needs six.  If it needs eight, then you get eight.  If it needs six, then I find it frustrating that two token positions were proposed to be cut.  I know that is how “it” is done but I don’t like it.  Same with the police car.

Reduce park maintenance staff: $120,000

This seemed like a genuine cut and I didn’t like it.  I spent a lot of time in Saskatoon parks and I notice when things are broken and I appreciate the work they do when things are looking really good.  I think this cut is a mistake.

Mendel Art Gallery cut: $5,700

We just gave them $20 million to build a new building but we scaled back the operating grant by $5700.  Wow.

Fee Hikes:

Discounted transit pass : $159,000

I was shocked by this as I thought it was a provincial program to begin with.  The Ministry of Social Services actually advertised this on their website.  Personally I think the Province of Saskatchewan should pick up the bill for the entire program.  I applaud the city for starting the program but we should not be stuck with the bill.

Security false alarm fees: $195,300
Leisure centres: $92,000
Street closures: $12,000
Development permits: $120,000
Sign permits: $14,000
Tax and assessment searches: $18,300
Allotment gardens: $500
Development applications: $120,000
Organic recycling green bins: $24,000
Building inspections: $200,000

Total: $1.7-million

Sean Shaw has a post on the cuts as well.  In it he reveals a shocking truth – he actually read all of the reports.  In my defense, I have been busy taking Mark to football practice every night for a couple of hours which is prime NFL Network report reading time.  The next service review will be just before the next civic election in four year which means that Mark will still be playing football.  If he does not go on to play for either the Huskies or the Hilltops, I will be sure to read the next batch of reports in 2019.  Dave Hutton has both a story and a post on the cuts.

Hutton’s story had one new fee being discussed.  The sound barrier fee.

The lengthiest discussion Wednesday surrounded an administration proposal to move the payment of the construction of sound walls to homeowners via a local improvement levy. Currently, the city’s infrastructure branch budgets $576,000 annually to construct sound walls based on a prioritized list. There is $37 million in sound wall construction outstanding. The walls are now built in new areas or as part of road construction projects, but weren’t for many years.

Coun. Tiffany Paulsen said "logistical and practical issues" make such a fee a bad idea. The cost of a sound wall per lot averages $50,000, council heard. Even if the total is cost-shared by the city or by an entire neighbourhood, it’s still a substantial cost to the homeowner, Paulsen said.

"It’s one thing to have a local levy of $200," she said. "It’s another to have a local levy of $50,000. This is a whole new ball game."

Umm, Coun. Paulsen, what about the $2250 (plus GST) levy for each home that has to have city water lines replaced.  While neighbourhoods have done well without sound barriers, I have to “flush my system” by running my cold water for FIVE MINUTES each morning to ensure it’s safe.  When (and if) the city decides to replace the water mains on my street, each of us will get a $2250 (plus GST) bill for it.  So the city will cover a $50,000 bill for each home for sound reasons while it won’t cover $2250 a home for clean drinking water. 

It would be humorous if only they weren’t running the city I lived in.

One Comment

  1. Scott says:

    The 2250 is also mandatory should the water main break in front of your house and they notice that it’s a lead pipe. But don’t worry, they’ll dig the hole, fix the problem, leave a big gravel patch, then pave it, then send you a letter saying it needs to be replaced and give you the option of hiring the city’s preferred contractor to a max or 2250, or hire your own contractor in the short time frame of 2 weeks, to have the work done in 4. Then of course leave a gravel patch that has to be repaved, again.

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