After three and a half hours of healthy debate, Regina City Council followed administration’s advice on most recommendations for their revised 2017 budget.
A recorded vote of 7-3 passed a motion to increase the city’s mill rate by 2.5 per-cent on top of the 3.99 per-cent increase in February’s original budget.
Mayor Michael Fougere said while the decision was difficult, he felt council stood their ground against the province’s decision to cut the grants-in-lieu program, which left them with a shortfall of nearly $11-million for 2017.
“We set our budget out and now we’re responding to a last minute cut by the province on the budget which makes it very very difficult, but we stood our ground in terms of not using reserves, we have a small mill rate increase and service cuts and reductions that will take us into 2018,” Fougere said, adding the meeting was a very uncomfortable situation for everyone involved, leaving many with a twinge in their stomach when thinking about the cuts to programs and services that were made.
“We have heard from residents, and they understand that spending our savings on what is expected to be a permanent cut is neither sustainable nor responsible fiscal stewardship.” Fougere said in a news release sent out by the city Tuesday night, when speaking on council’s decision not to dip into reserve funds.
In 2018 the expected shortfall is closer to $16-million.
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However, not all was lost, council decided to remove the Regina Lawn Bowling Club, Play-Escapes program, Regent Park Golf Course, and Statutory Holiday Bus service from it’s list of cuts.
Fougere said they tried to remain thoughtful during a tough process.
“The Lawn Bowling club had a strong message but they were very respectful, they were very clear on what they wanted to see, and they wanted to be a part of the solution, so how can you say no to that. With the other three we changed, I think generally speaking we felt cutting bus service on holidays is not a good way to go , and the Play-Escapes program for kids is something we clearly need to maintain,” Fougere said.
Fougere also said if the change to the grants-in-lieu program was a one year deal, they would have gone about business with a very different approach.
A ten dollar increase to parking tickets effective July 1, and a $1-million reduction to the Regina Police Services’ operating budget was also approved.