City of Regina asked to find efficiencies as council approves lower-than-proposed tax increase
Regina City Council passed its 2023-2024 budget, but it has warned the city government that the reduced mill rate increase means it must find a way to cut $2.9 million in internal costs.
The decision comes after a contentious five-hour debate over the city’s operating budget and a hotly debated amendment that would require the city to operate with a lower-than-proposed increase in the mill rate, which determines tax per dollar of appraised property’s value.
count. Lori Bresciani (District 4) introduced the motion, which called for the mill rate increase to be 3.67 percent instead of the 4.6 percent increase recommended in the proposed city government budget.
As the majority of Council members have repeatedly told each other and delegations during this week’s budget debate, their primary objective is to maintain affordability in Regina.
“These are not easy times for anyone. We’ve seen many residents of this city email or call and say, ‘You know, it’s unfortunate, but I can’t afford to pay any more,'” Bresciani said.
Her amended motion was approved by the Council by a seven vote to four. Cheryl Stadnichuk (Station 1), District. Andrew Stevens (Station 3), Coun. Dan LeBlanc (Station 6) and Coun. Shanon Zachidniak (Station 8) joins here.
The change means the average homeowner will see a tax increase of about $6.85 per month, or $82 annually.
The change came with the caveat that services to Regina residents would not be adversely affected. Significant changes would require the City Council to re-agree.
“That will be our focus,” said Barry Lacey, the city’s executive director for financial strategy and sustainability.
Lacey and City Manager Niki Anderson repeatedly told the council they would need time to determine what the efficiency efforts would look like.
“Totally a mess”
Council tensions were on full display on Friday as council members campaigning for the competing priorities of affordability and tackling homelessness clashed.
Mayor Sandra Masters urged the council to stop the “misinformation” circulating about homelessness.
“This naivety that we have that we’re just throwing a little bit at it — that’s an incremental process and it’s something we can’t participate in because we don’t have billion-dollar budgets,” the mayor said.
“These are health issues, these are social services issues and I resent the failure of some of my fellow councilors to recognize at all that we are doing an extraordinary amount more than we were before.”
The vote effectively ended Councilors LeBlanc and Stevens’ efforts to add funds to the budget to address homelessness.
Their efforts were supported by a majority of the more than 60 delegations addressing the council on Thursday.
However, this was not enough for a majority in the municipal council.
count. Terina Nelson (Station 7) was among the politicians calling for a united front. She called on her colleagues to take a personal stand on homelessness while calling for an end to the fighting in the council.
Other council members said they were frustrated after days of debate.
“It was a total mess,” Coun said. Jason Mancinelli (Station 9).
The council also unanimously passed an amendment by Stadnichuk that would require the council to allocate $300,000 from the Community Investment Reserve Fund to the Community Support Program operated by the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District.
The program is also funded by a $100,000 contribution from the Regina Police Service and additional, unspecified funding from the Regina Public Library.
The council passed the capital budget with significant changes and passed the utility budget with a 4.5 percent rate hike in 2023 and a 4.0 percent principal increase in 2024 after rejecting a motion to lower those rates.