City Council Highlights
Below are some of the highlights from the Council and Committee meetings in June. The full reports can be found at saskatoon.ca/meeting.
Provincial Infrastructure Funding
The provincial government has provided all municipalities in the province with per capita funding for infrastructure improvements, and the City of Saskatoon is eligible for $35.53M from this program.
City Council made progress in determining exactly how this funding will be allocated:
- $3.325M to implement projects from the neighbourhood traffic review process
- $0.575M to help with sidewalk rehabilitation
- $2.0M for the construction of a Downtown festival site
- $2.5M for freeway safety improvements
Further explanations of these projects can be found in the City’s report.
Additionally, $15M will be put aside to help address financial shortfalls and to address reserve reductions so there is no need to deal with these shortfalls through tax increases. The remaining $12.13M will be allocated at a future meeting of Council, and the potential projects can be found in the City’s report.
Revised Financial Forecast
Throughout the pandemic, the City’s administration has been doing projections about the impact that the restrictions and operating changes will have on the City’s finances. Although recent provincial announcements have helped to create greater certainty about some civic operations, there are still a lot of unknowns so the number will continue to fluctuate. With this being said, the City is currently predicting a deficit of $13.9M.
The City has taken many steps to manage its finances, such as discretionary hiring, a non-essential spending freeze, travel and training reductions, and the use of fiscal stabilization reserves. The provincial infrastructure funding can also be used to help address some financial shortfalls, so we are not anticipating that additional costs will be borne by taxpayers.
Strategies and supports for Organizations and Businesses
City Council has received many requests to help businesses and organizations with the unprecedented financial challenges being faced in the community. On Monday at City Council we debated a whole range of these requests and made decisions to provide strategic support to businesses in a few key ways.
Integrated Tourism Marketing Campaign
The Hospitality industry has been the hardest hit industry during this pandemic. Tourism Saskatoon has put together a business case for a marketing campaign to help promote the safe recovery and marketing of our restaurants, hotels, shopping districts, arts experiences and tourist destination. They asked for support from Saskatoon as one partner in this initiative, and we provided 145,000$. I supported this request because I recognize that we have to work aggressively at ensuring we can support our cherished local businesses and institutions.
City Council also supported a motion to waive the fees for parking patios to make it easier for these to be set up and provide more room for restaurants to accommodate people safely. This will help create more vibrant streets and a greater sense of safey in these districts as well.
Temporary Reserve Parking
Council also supported relieve for Temporary Reserve parking for businesses and organizations that had paid for parking spots that were cordoned off for construction but while there was no charge for parking on the streets during COVID.
The City of Saskatoon received many additional requests from businesses and organizations to offer additional financial relief. However, in Saskatchewan, municipalities do not have the ability to legally run deficits, and this means that every year we must pass a balanced budget, and that any financial shortcomings must be immediately addressed in the next year’s budget. The federal government, in contrast, has a significant financial capacity and the ability to take on and finance debt, so this is why we are seeing them initiate so many of the programs that involve large amounts of spending. The City has been able to offer some financial relief to residents, but the policy options we have are far more limited than other levels of government. Any breaks or grants that are given to one sector must be borne immediately by other taxpayers in Saskatoon.
Renewable Energy Strategy Update
Committee received an update on the work to create and facilitate renewable energy projects in Saskatoon. This work is a way to create jobs and to decrease costs to homeowners, businesses, and the City.
The City is working on an Integrated Solar and Renewable Energy Strategy to identify and prioritize renewable energy opportunities for the community and the City of Saskatoon to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become more sustainable. The analysis is looking at such projects as installing solar panels on municipal buildings, programs to incentivize residential solar panels, creating or encouraging large-scale solar farms, and looking at other sustainable power options to figure out what projects and investments will have the greatest return and impact.
There is federal money available to do this work, so we want to be shovel ready and not left behind on these sorts of opportunities.
For those interested, more information can be found in the City’s report, and a full prioritized plan will be coming forward in 2021 after further research and consultation.
Parking and Transportation in Kinsmen Park
With the Wonderhub, the Nutrien Playland, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, and the Prairie Lily Cruises, the Kinsmen Park area has become such a hub of activity for residents and visitors to our community. There is great to see, but unfortunately this area wasn’t originally designed for such heavy usage and it requires some reconfiguration and problem solving to help as many people access these destinations as possible.
As far as problems go, I think it’s a pretty good one to have—it’s a sign of the success of the area and the growing excitement of these amenities. There are many different ways planned to address parking and transportation issues to help this area thrive even more. For 2020, the following projects are planned:
- Installing wayfinding signage
- Improvements to a shared parking lot
- Installing pick-up and drop-off zones
There was also a trial Transit route being considered, but this has been pushed back due to the pandemic.
Other future improvements include a bike share, improvements to Spadina, increasing parking supply in lots and on Kinsmen Avenue, and different pedestrian improvements. More information on this can be found in the City’s report.