REGINA - The City of Regina has released its first multi year budget and tax hikes are on the way for residents.
The budget for covers operational revenue and expenses for a two-year period and capital over five years. For 2023 and 2024, the proposed mill rate increase is 4.67 per cent mill rate for 2023, and 4.66 per cent in 2024.
For 2023 the breakdown is 2.29 per cent for civic operations and strategic priorities, .50 for a dedicated mill rate for recreational infrastructure, and 1.88 for police operations.
In a news release the city states that for the average assessed home valued at $315,000, this amounts to an increase of $8.72 per month or $104.64 annually in 2023, and $9.11 per month or $109.32 annually in 2024.
For the City’s five-year general fund capital plan, it totals $741 million, with $157 million in 2023. Over $84 million is proposed over the next two years including $20.6 million for facility upgrades for City bus electrification, $2.2 million for upgrades to get to the Renewable Regina 2050 goal, $1.5 million for light-duty vehicle electric charging stations, $1.7 million annual funding for Community and Social Impact Regina, and $458,000 annual funding plus $365,000 capital funding for the Winter City Strategy, among others.
The utility budget is proposing a 4.5 per cent increase, followed by a four percent increase in 2024.
The city states this goes towards maintaining the current water, wastewater and stormwater system, to fund renewal of Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant, and to a new affordability program for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.
At this point the multi-year Budget is just in draft form. It must still be debated and approved by city council, with that to happen at the Dec. 14 meeting with additional discussion slated for Dec. 15 and 16, if necessary. Those wishing to appear as delegations to speak on the budget must file with the City Clerk by 1 p.m. on Dec. 8.
Regina’s newly-hired City Manager Niki Anderson expects considerable discussion on the budget when it does go to council.
“I have no doubt that moving from the draft budget to the final budget will spark lively debate, because we cannot fully fund everything that everyone wants to fund to the extent they want to fund it,” Anderson told reporters Tuesday. “But the budget really is about consensus building, so participation is key.”
One anticipated hot topic will be the homelessness issue. In June, council supported a motion directing administration to include full operational funding to solve homelessness using a Housing First model.
But this was not included in the 2023-24 budget recommendations. Administration officials pointed to financial figures Tuesday that indicate this would come at a steep cost to taxpayers.
The city estimates it would require $98 million in capital investment and $25 million in annual operating costs. According to Regina Executive Director of Financial Strategy and Sustainability Barry Lacey, the mill rate increases required would be 21.73 per cent in 2023 and 4.24 per cent in 2024.
It was also noted the city invests approximately $7.9 million annually toward programs and initiatives for homelessness, social development, and well-being.
“Administration believes issues of homelessness are best addressed by multiple levels of government working together,” said Lacey to reporters.
When asked by reporters Tuesday for her reaction to the recommendation by administration on the homeless issue, Mayor Sandra Masters said it was “yes, I think that’s completely the accurate thing for the city to do.”
“I think it’s beyond our jurisdiction. I hear from some that folks don’t care about jurisdiction. Our job is to care about jurisdiction. We are not Social Services, we are not Health, we are not Corrections, we are not Mental Health, that’s not what we are. We are a city. And we have very hard edges around our tax system. We are legislated to balance our budget while other levels of government are clearly not. And some governments work harder than others to balance their budgets, and we are required to… for us to take that on is far beyond the mandate that we’re given as a city.”
As for the 4.67 property tax increase proposed, Masters did express concerns that the 2023-24 budget wasn’t aggressive enough on efficiencies.
“I struggle with it. On the one hand, if inflation is at five per cent it seems we’ve come in under that. At the same time, from an efficiency perspective, do I think we’re there yet? Nope, I don’t.”