by Eric Bell
The city of Regina is set to get some extra money from the province to help balance the books, with a municipal revenue sharing increase of 11.4 per cent being allocated to the city in the 2013 provincial budget.
Minister of government relations Jim Reiter said that the increase will allow urban centres such as Regina and Saskatoon to use the extra money for whatever they see necessary.
“Cities can use this money for operating, they can use it for capital, they can use it to target specific programs certainly its their choice, it’s unconditional,” said Reiter. "The amount of money they receive is based on one per cent of the PST, so as our economy grows, their share of revenue grows as well."
Regina’s portion of municipal revenue sharing has grown substantially, climbing from $15.75 million in 2007, to $41.07 million in 2013. Mayor Michael Fougere was happy with the outcome of the budget, citing infrastructure as his main priority.
“Our revenue goes from about $38 million to about $41 million for this year, so we are going to see an increase and are very pleased,” said Fougere, noting that there had been competition between rural, northern, and urban communities for the funds.
NDP government relations critic Trent Wotherspoon said that while municipal revenue sharing is important for all Saskatchewan communities, most of the money goes towards operations, and not infrastructure development.
“What we have to understand is this revenue is solely for operations and entirely utilized for operations, so what we don’t have is any new dollars for infrastructure, leaving a shortfall for many of our communities and a burden that’s going to be felt by taxpayers,” Wotherspoon said. "So, for sidewalks, sewers, all that important infrastructure, there’s no meaningful planning on that part.”
The pace of development may be hindered by how much we receive on the infrastructure side, and we will continue to make that our priority as a council.”
In total, $264 million in municipal revenue sharing will be distributed to cities and towns across the province, an increase of almost 50 per cent since 2007. Warman, Saskatchewan’s newest city, will receive its first revenue sharing payment of $1.51 million this year.