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Editorial: Budget leaves a few questions

Should services be trimmed to lower taxes?
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Yorkton Council has unveiled the City's proposed 2022 budget.

YORKTON - Considering that Yorkton Council had already briefly discussed that the City was facing a huge increase in RCMP costs, and that there would be less revenue from a decline in the Municipal Revenue Sharing grant from PST, a hike in property taxes was nearly inevitable. 

Monday night at the regular meeting of Yorkton Council residents learned that the increase is likely to be 4.86 per cent, the lion’s share of that attributed to the new RCMP contract that will add roughly $670,000 per year to the City budget moving forward, and in 2022 adds another $1.4 million RCMP will receive in back pay with their new contract. 

If you set aside the new RCMP contract, the City has done quite a job of holding increases to a minimum. 

On the operations side the increase is only one per cent, razor thin when you consider documents circulated at Council Monday noted inflation peaked at about 4.5 per cent. 

And, let’s not forget Council held the line in 2021 with no tax increase. 

That suggests a rather sharp pencil was used, sharper still when it was noted the City’s initial budget numbers were suggesting a 12 per cent increase. That means they managed to cut about seven per cent as they went over the budget. 

It would be interesting to know where they were able to trim significant dollars while still putting forward “a service level status quo budget.” 

How did they tweak things to provide the same services and cut costs in a time when inflation was more than four per cent? 

Unfortunately, all that work, the tough questions our elected Council may have had to ask, were carried out behind closed doors. 

Arguably the decisions Council makes around budget and its increases impact residents more than any other decisions they make because it hits the pocketbook, and we just don’t get to see how those we voted for, and may vote for again, performed. 

In this case the fact they managed to cut an initially proposed 12 per cent increase down to less than five, while maintaining services also begs the question why those cost saving measures – even some of them – weren’t instituted in 2021. Had they been we might have seen the City do the unthinkable and actually cut taxes a per cent or two.   

The 2022 budget has one other aspect that should be considered, how long can we go with the current levels of service if ultimately it means taxes must rise every year? 

It seems the time has come where Council needs to take a very hard look at what the City offers and determines what, if anything can be cut in order to relieve the strain on taxpayers. 

The 4.86 per cent being considered is big, roughly $100 bucks a year to the average home owner, and they were already facing a three per cent increase in water rates, and a $1 per month hike in the water base charge – about $24/year. 

Sometime the increases will need to stop, and that will mean the tough decisions to cut services, and those discussions should start sooner rather than later.