Regina’s first multi-year initial budget includes rate hikes, no housing-first funding IG News

IG news Update,

Regina’s first preliminary multi-year budget was unveiled this week, and includes a proposed mill rate of 4.02 percent in 2023 and an increase to 3.96 percent in 2024.

The increase, set out in the city administration’s presentation before the executive committee on Wednesday, would generate an estimated additional $11.4 million annually.

In 2023, $2.6 million of those funds will go to community safety and wellbeing, such as pavement repairs.

A total of $1.5 million will fall under the “lively community” category, which includes on-demand transit service and the expansion of the community cleanup program.

Environmental sustainability is the third strategic priority of the initial budget, with $500,000 going toward things like the Community Building Retrofit Grant program, and initiatives for new property and park maintenance.

Ward 8 Co. Shannon Zachniak questioned the city administration’s proposed investment in environmental sustainability on Wednesday’s executive committee, asking why more action can’t be taken to be nearly net-zero by 2050 to comply with all of the advisory’s recent recommendations. has been

“If we are not prepared to follow the advisor’s recommendations – which we have paid significant money to achieve – how will we reach this goal?” Jachiniac asked.

“We are doing our best to move everything forward and continue to develop the budget in a sustainable way that is also accountable to taxpayers and to you as council members,” replied Acting City Manager Jim Nicholl. .

Nichol said the city administration is working to reallocate funds through efficiency savings, but added that inflation and implementing new city programs pose financial challenges.

“If we delay it will not be easier or less expensive,” Zachiniak argued. “We can’t afford to postpone it – not even a year – or we won’t meet our goal.”

The initial budget presentation also outlined proposed initiatives totaling $19.7 million, which the city will not consider over the next two years due to funding pressures. This includes free transit options for teens and senior citizens and housing-first initiatives to address homelessness.

Ward 6 Dan LeBlanc took issue with the lapse of the homelessness initiatives, as the council passed a resolution in June to move forward with them. LeBlanc said it was his understanding that he would be included in the budget.

Nichol said that if housing-first — the $15.4 million annual operating expense, plus capital costs — is included next year, the initial property tax increase would more than double to 9.5 percent.

Ward 2. Bob Hawkins told council and administration that they should not look at what residents can currently afford.

“These are the people who are paying very high food bills, who are raising interest rates on their mortgages, which are being squeezed by an economy, making us talk about a sort of utopian state of budgeting. We’re listening — and that’s not what we do,” Hawkins said.

“I think we should take care that we don’t scare people, that we don’t discourage investment in the city because potential investors think we’ve lost our minds.”

The initial budget listed proposed utility rate increases to 4.5 percent in 2023 and four percent in 2024, largely to help fund upgrades at the Buffalo Pound water treatment plant.

Regina’s final proposed budget is due for release in late November, with approval expected in mid-December.

Residents can voice their views through a survey on the city’s website.

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