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Weyburn council has its work cut out

City council has a fine line to walk as they set the final budget for 2023 by the Dec. 12 council meeting, says editor Greg Nikkel.
City Hall-0143
Weyburn city council will consider the 88 comments received as they make the final decision on the budget by Dec. 12.

WEYBURN – The City of Weyburn’s council and administration embarked on an experiment of sorts in working on the 2023 budget, and now it remains to be seen if it bears fruit that is acceptable to all or most people.

A preliminary budget was introduced on Oct. 24, and then it was opened to the public for comments and suggestions from Oct. 25 to Nov. 18.

In the end, comments were received from 88 residents, from a wide cross-section of the community.

City council will now look through all of those comments, and will make their decisions to form the final budget, which will be voted on at the Dec. 12 council meeting.

It’s pretty likely there will be a tax increase, but it isn’t going to be the initial hike of 10.34 per cent in the preliminary budget, as this was only the starting point to the budget-making process.

A hint that there will be some increase came from Coun. Mel Van Betuw’s comments, when he said he doesn’t believe that a zero-increase is possible, and indeed he argued it would be inadvisable. 

He pointed to a past year when council did try a zero-increase budget, and said in his view this hurt the city more than it helped.

From the comments and suggestions received, the largest portion of comments (41 out of 88) asked for either a tax freeze or decrease, while the second largest group (27 people) supported an increase at a lower rate than proposed, and a group of 17 comments asked for city employees to take a freeze or reduction in wages and benefits.

In an era of inflation, it’s not very realistic or advisable to tell workers to take reduced wages, or to have no increase at all, not if residents expect those workers to stay in the service of the City of Weyburn. A wage freeze would basically be the same as a reduction, because the costs of everything is going up while one’s ability to pay those costs is not keeping up.

In the same way, a freeze or reduction in taxes might be nice and less painful for the taxpayers, but those same taxpayers could not realistically expect the same level of services – somebody has to pay those higher costs, and as the saying goes, there’s only one taxpayer.

Council also needs to keep in mind that there are people struggling to make ends meet, particularly the “working poor” who are making minimum wage, or close to it, and seeing the costs for gas, food and housing going up.

It’s a very fine edge to be walking, but hopefully with some common sense, and some humanity, the councillors will come up with a budget that enables services to continue to be provided, and will not cost an arm and a leg for most home-owners in the city.

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