The City of Regina says it has rescheduled its regular council meeting in order to stage an emergency discussion Monday following the cut to the grants-in-lieu program in last week’s Provincial Budget.
The announcement of the removal of the program has left many municipalities in the province reeling and wondering how to re-balance their books after the program is removed.
During the delivery of Saskatchewan’s budget, Finance Minister Kevin Doherty said “in this budget, we are asking municipalities to share in our efforts to meet the financial challenge”
Cities – both large and small – in Saskatchewan are now grappling with how they will comply with their own balanced-budget legislation.
The City of Saskatoon held an emergency meeting Sunday to decide what steps and measures must be taken in that community.
- Saskatoon council considering legal action against province over lost grants
- Hike to PST and elimination of STC highlights Kevin Doherty’s Saskatchewan budget
The Saskatchewan Urban Municipality has also expressed great concern over the removal of the grants-in-lieu program.
SUMA board director Darren Hill says removing it leaves smaller cities no maneuvering room whatsoever.
“You look at the community of Unity, Saskatchewan, for example,” says Hill. “They’re losing 63-thousand dollars from their annual operating budget this year. That is a significant amount of money to the town of Unity that they have had no idea that this was coming.”
Hill says there is no cut-and-dried solution to this program cut. “The Finance Minister and the Premier are suggesting, just pull this from your reserves,” says Hill. “That doesn’t address the fact that it’s multiple years. You can’t just pull this from your reserves. This is an annual deficit – or hole – that needs to be addressed in all future budgets.”
Hill says the SUMA board met late last week and was inundated with questions from municipalities as to how they should move foward. “And during the course of both those days, our administration team was receiving numerous calls and emails from the membership asking for an explanation as to what was happening with these grants-in-lieu.”
The program — which can provide millions for the annual budgets in Saskatoon and Regina, will be removed on April 1.
Saskatoon’s City Council is considering legal action as a last resort as they face an 8-million dollar gap after the provincial budget.
“We are legislated to balance our budgets every year,” says Hill, who is also a Saskatoon city councillor. “We don’t get the luxury of being able to run a deficit like the provincial or federal governments do. We must balance our budgets. And that’s the reason for the establishment and the maintenance of our reserves. It’s to address any issue that may come up.”