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City of Saskatoon will not seek a $300 million deficit reduction by the provincial budget

City of Saskatoon will not seek a $300 million deficit reduction by the provincial budget

Mayor John Tory stands firm on low taxes in the face of massive budget shortfall, declining city services and higher than expected budget deficit

Saskatoon StarPhoenix | Published February 28, 2015.

Mayor John Tory stood firm Wednesday on his administration’s commitment to reduce the municipal budget deficit — but he also made it clear he isn’t willing to accept the province’s plan to transfer additional cash collected for health care to the city’s general fund, as well as his administration’s decision to not raise property taxes.

The announcement that the City will no longer seek a $300 million deficit reduction by the provincial budget comes after the city made it clear it would not adopt the province’s plan to provide $30 million more dollars in funding for low-income seniors to help them rent their homes in Saskatoon. But Tory also said he wants to keep in place his commitment to maintain the city’s current property tax rate and said he’s doing so because he believes a more moderate tax rate will better reflect the city’s costs of servicing the city services.

“I believe, and it’s a long-held belief, that the only way to balance the budget in Saskatoon in a reasonable time will be to maintain a property tax base which is more in line with the costs of the services we provide to the citizens of Saskatoon,” he said Wednesday during an interview. “It was very clear to me that the previous administration — particularly after a number of years of very poor service to the citizens of Saskatoon — had reached the point where we needed to find a way to make sure we balanced the budget in a reasonable time.”

Tory said he was elected three years ago with a mandate to balance the budget and said the city’s administration had not only taken the time and effort to do that but is on track to achieve that goal by the May 2018 budget.

His announcement follows the province’s announcement on Wednesday that the city would no longer be seeking a $300 million deficit reduction in the provincial budget when it takes effect in July by increasing the minimum home improvements tax and also by increasing the minimum home improvements tax. The increased minimum home improvements tax means the city will not collect funds for additional home improvements and repairs.

“We’ve been working hard to make sure that we get to a balance in our budget for

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