Budget, Downtown, Wiggins Ave and the Broadway Street Fair
I hope you are enjoying a wonderful summer, along with some relaxation time.
Council has been busy with special budget meetings to address the projected gap for the upcoming 2024-2025 multi-year budget.
As of this date, the projected tax increase has been cut in half and I remain committed to getting the rate to a reasonable level. My motion to have an independent audit of the staff-to-management ratio at the City of Saskatoon was passed unanimously, and will be completed in time for November deliberations where the final budget will be passed.
A reminder that the City of Saskatoon is NOT in a deficit situation, but there are 3 main pressures as we head into the next multi-year budget process:
- Significantly higher-than-normal inflationary pressures
- Reduced leisure centre revenue, parking, transit
- Removal of one-time Covid funding ($10 million)
Similar situations are impacting municipal budgets across the country. Note that Saskatoon continues to have among the lowest property taxes per capita. You can find more information here: https://www.saskatoon.ca/sites/default/files/2024-25%20Multi%20Year%20Budget%20Info%20Guide.pdf
Please reach out if you have questions. [email protected]
Downtown Event and Entertainment District:
The Downtown Event and Entertainment District (DEED) project has not been approved, and a reminder that halting it would neither save money, nor reduce property tax. Council has directed NO property tax impact for capital or operating expenses for an event centre and public plaza. Unless or until this is achieved, I don’t see how the DEED can move forward.
Council is awaiting a full funding strategy before a decision is made. Partnerships and tools such as Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) and ticket surcharges are crucial for the plan to work. In my view, DEED is a city-building initiative – not something “nice to have”. Anchors and public realm improvements, similar to River Landing, are part of an over-arching plan to drive density to the core where infrastructure and services already exist, helping Saskatoon to become more efficient, less expensive and more sustainable.
However, there is another piece that requires some unpacking.
Status of Sasktel Centre Building:
Without a plan to re-build SaskTel Centre, the facility will require at least 100 hundred million dollars in retrofits, renovations, and technical upgrades, according to a 2018 report. I am not aware of any other level of government or private partner willing to support this, and I want to avoid a property tax impact. Note that a renovation of thi magnitude would also require the building to be closed, forcing existing tenants such as the Blades and Rush to re-locate for up to two years.
The current Sasktel Centre building is in great shape and well-maintained. However, it lacks the structural, technical and space requirements of a new generation of shows and attendees. The large concerts and events are what keeps SaskTel Centre profitable. Here are some of the main building issues:
- Loading Docks - Not enough; high costs of labour and time
- Building Height – Shows becoming increasingly require higher rigging (not possible in current facility)
- Concession space - Needs to be tripled to accommodate demand
- Kitchen space – No space to create menu options to meet demand
- Bathrooms – Not enough; porta-potties need to be brought in for big events
- Dressing Rooms – not enough (*many artists require a “green room”)
- No space on concourse to do “meet & greet” events
The next step is to review the options, including a funding strategy for a new facility downtown. I anticipate learning more in early 2024.
Traffic Safety Audit – Wiggins and College Drive:
My motions to review the intersection were passed unanimously by Council, following the tragic death of Natasha Fox, who was struck by a vehicle as she tried to cross College Drive on a bicycle. The third-party, independent audit is underway, and our administration is re-visiting the Active Transportation Plan with options for potential new rapid deployment tools. I anticipate more information in the coming months.
Broadway Street Fair:
I hope you will stop by my booth at the Broadway Street Fair on Saturday, September 9th. As we head into the busy fall season, I am reminded how fortunate I am to represent you at City Hall. I will continue to do my best to serve.