Watch above: Members of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipality Association are gathered in Saskatoon this week to talk about a variety of issues. As Meaghan Craig tells us there was a lot to chew on after revenue sharing was put on the table.
SASKATOON – When it comes to municipal revenue sharing, the premier of the province wasn’t saying much at the 110th Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) convention. On Monday, more than a 1,000 delegates gathered at TCU Place in Saskatoon for the annual SUMA convention.
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The association represents more than four hundred and forty urban governments many of which have already passed their budgets and rely on the province’s current revenue sharing program to off-set costs in their communities.
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According to SUMA, the program shares one point (20 per cent) of the PST with local governments and the amount of funding allocated is based on revenue from the second preceding fiscal year. The amount of funding being allocated to the urban sector in 2015-16 is estimated to be $169 million based on 2013-14 PST revenues.
“We have a pretty good understanding that the hit to oil and some other revenue changes that are happening that are somewhat attendant to oil and some unrelated will result in a loss of revenue to the Government of Saskatchewan of between six- and eight-hundred million dollars,” said Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.
According to Wall, budget finalization will happen later this month and everything is on the table including the revenue sharing program introduced in 2009.
“Our preference is to continue with the relationship we have as represented by the revenue sharing formula that exists today that’s what we’re working hard to do, we want to balance the budget that’s very important and so everything must be on the table notionally and it is but it would be last resort change.”
It is changes the government didn’t anticipate when addressing delegates at the same convention in 2012, as part of the president’s address here’s what the premier said after the last major bump in the provincial economy.
“Whatever the fiscal state we face in this province we have an agreement with SUMA and SARM our municipal partners, we have made a commitment with respect to revenue sharing and we will keep that commitment,” said Wall in 2012.
Wanting some comfort and clarity, SUMA President Debra Button didn’t get either and says she won’t sleep any better tonight knowing that if the program is cut there’s only two options left.
“We go back to our communities and we look at ways to cut services, that’s number one and number two obviously then because it’s our only way to increase our revenue then is to go back to the tax base and increase your property taxes.”
Meanwhile, the mayor of Saskatoon confirmed that the city’s budget has already been set and is still cautiously optimistic.
“We’re going to continue to watch this very, very closely as it unfolds and we’ll wait for the March budget and at the time we’ll have to determine what we’re going to do,” said Don Atchison.