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Every fall we hear Saskatoon council talking about the tough decisions that lie ahead at budget talks, but we rarely see any such decisions made.
COVID-19 could change that.
However, no mayoral promise or goal can become reality without five other councillors to vote in favour.
Atchison says his plan to reduce property taxes to zero next year hinges on siphoning money from reserve funds, specifically the fund to one day replace the landfill.
That seems shaky, since the landfill replacement fund has been consistently underfunded and the replacement cost, estimated at $126 million, looms as one of city hall’s largest liabilities.
Plus, city hall has showed a religious-like aversion to raiding reserve funds.
When the Saskatchewan Party government unexpectedly slashed grants-in-lieu to municipalities in 2017, leaving a crater in the City of Saskatoon’s budget, council resolutely rejected the advice of then premier Brad Wall to use reserve funds to cover it.
City hall was grappling with a $9-million shortfall thanks to the province, close to the $9.9 million Atchison would need for no 2021 increase. In 2017, council opted for a tax hike, a rise in parking fines and the elimination of a budget contingency for raises.
Later that year, council voted narrowly to explore a hiring freeze.
That brings us to the one per cent pledge by Norris. The former provincial cabinet minister says he would reduce the looming 3.87 per cent increase by imposing a hiring freeze at city hall, except for the police and fire departments.