Melfort city council is moving forward with a tax increase of just over three percent despite an unfinalized provincial budget.
Council met Thursday at city hall to continue working on the 2018 operating budget a day after members returned from the SUMA convention in Regina. Mayor Rick Lang said the city needs to move forward with their budget plan even if the province hasn't finished its.
On Monday premier Scott Moe announced the current revenue sharing formula of one per cent needs to change to be “fair and provide predictability.” Lang said the provincial government is taking in more PST revenue with the addition of taxes on insurance and construction contracts and isn’t keen on passing the money along to municipalities.
“What we have now is a good basis for revenue sharing, it’s set with logic and reason,” Lang told northeastNOW. “I think the government noticed it’s evolved into more money than they ever thought it would be.”
The cuts to the grants-in-lieu program - a provincial revenue sharing program in the place of municipalities collecting property taxes from Crown buildings like SaskPower - were brought forward at SUMA as well from the city of Yorkton. Last year that cost Melfort $256,000 in revenue. Lang said the revenue burden must be passed on to taxpayers.
“Anytime there is a claw back in any type of revenue from the provincial government we have to cut services or raise taxes or both. None of those are pretty, they’re awful decisions but necessary,” Lang said.
The continued discussion regarding marijuana dispensaries across Saskatchewan was a hot topic at the SUMA convention. Lang has expressed interest in allowing a depot in the city. He said the consensus in Regina was there but many questions remain.
“That’s why the provincial government isn’t excited about talking about money disbursement of any kind because they will get a certain amount of money. The province doesn’t know what their cost will be, so they don’t want to talk to us until they find out their costs,” Lang said.
Promises to upgrade three service roads and Saskatchewan Ave. were discussed with highways and infrastructure minister David Marit. The roadways fall under the Saskatchewan Urban Connector Program. Lang said when the city signed the deal an agreement was made that the streets would be redone in 2009.
Lang also met with Greg Ottenbreit, the minister responsible for rural and remote health. The city was promised a CT scanner in 2010 which was never delivered.
The city’s landfill was among other topics discussed with environment minister Dustin Duncan.
On Twitter: @ClarkStork
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