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Motion before Regina council to drop mill rate increase to 3.67

Councillor Lori Bresciani makes motion to drop mill rate increase by one point, as budget deliberations resume at City Hall.

UPDATE: The operations budget with the amended 3.67 per cent mill rate increase has been approved by a 7-4 vote. Council is still deliberating on the capital budget this afternoon.

REGINA - Regina City Council is now considering what decisions to make with the proposed 2023-24 multiyear budget.

After hearing and approving the police budget on Wednesday and after hearing a multitude of delegations on Thursday, on Friday council is getting down to the business of debating and discussing the budget line items and setting the final mill rate.

At issue is administration’s proposal for a 4.67 mill rate increase in 2023 and 4.66 in 2024. Already, the indication from council is they want to see changes, with varying opinions on what that should be.

Already, there has been a motion by Councillor Lori Bresciani to reduce the proposed mill rate for 2023 to 3.67 per cent, for reduced expenditures of $2.9 million without negatively impacting service delivery.

In making the motion Bresciani cited concerns about affordability pressures throughout the city, and also noted the mill rate increased proposed by administration was the highest since 2017 when it was 6.49.

“In the toughest times that families are seeing as we come out of the pandemic, why the highest mill rate out of 2017,” said Councillor Bresciani. “I’m concerned about that.”

Also widely expected to come up was the homelessness issue and whether there would be a line item commitment to the Housing First model. That had been the subject of the recent court application by two members of council against City Manager Niki Anderson, which has been dismissed.

Already, a motion has come to the floor on that issue. Councillor Andrew Stevens has made a motion proposing replacing the 0.5 dedicated recreation mill rate with a 0.5 Permanent Supportive Housing operating grant annual mill rate increase for five years. It would also direct administration to partner with the Reaching Home (Canada’s Homeless Strategy) program and the Regina Homelessness Community Advisory Board to advance a Housing First initiative using municipal funds by adding to existing sources of funding.

“What this would do is create a revenue stream that we would then dedicate to existing pot of money, and another element of this motion, requests matching funds from the province. So if we are sincere about our interest in having this as a shared effort and responsibility, which it is, then this is a measure that we can advance," said Stevens.

But there is already pushback to the idea of getting rid of the dedicated mill rate for recreation. A number of councillors including Councillor Bresciani have spoken against getting rid of the dedicated mill rate for recreation. 

Councillor Bob Hawkins said he would not support the amendment, saying “recreation is a critical element of wellness and a critical element of building a social fabric of our city.” 

“It seems to me particularly ironic that we would target the dedicated recreational mill rate as a source of funding for permanent supportive housing.”

Stevens' motion has since gone to a vote and it has been defeated 8-3. Only Councillors Dan LeBlanc and Shanon Zachidniak joined Stevens in favor. 

Discussion remains ongoing at City Hall and is expected to go on throughout the day, with discussions going on now on what other options are available to address the housing and homelessness issue.

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