Wednesday October 28, 2020: Charlie Clark announced plans for supporting residents and businesses through the winter.
“As we head into winter and continue to do our part following restrictions and limiting our activity, I am hearing concerns from parents, the elderly, and local businesses,” said Clark. “How will we get through the cold months and keep healthy? How can we encourage people to get out of their homes and support local businesses? To shop at a store with a door.”
His announcement of a ‘Take it Outside’ Fund, coupled with free city parking on the weekends, is a first step in answering both of those concerns.
He gave the examples of coming downtown on a beautiful winter day, parking for free while you skate at the Meewasin rink, stopping into a local restaurant for soup and coffee, and then popping into a local shop to check out their sales. Another example is enjoying a staycation at one of our hotels and not worrying about parking.
“This is the kind of community we are, we come together and support each other when things get tough,” he stated.
The Take it Outside Fund will be a one-time $250,000 fund from Federal Safe-Restart dollars.
Made available to Community Associations, Business Improvement Districts, arts and sports non profits, ethno-cultural community associations, and service organizations - The groups decide and apply for a grant to undertake their activity, whether it’s a community rink, outdoor adventure races, arts performances, winter dining experiences or warm up shacks along the river.
By redirecting Federal dollars for a one-time fund, this would have no impact on property taxes or the city’s operating budget.
Clark then commented on Rob Norris’ earlier proposal of a $5 million dollar tax relief for some of these same groups. He identified three significant problems with the proposal:
- Most arts and sports orgs do not own property, so would not qualify to receive this tax relief. For example, minor hockey will receive zero benefit from this.
- Norris’ idea of taking money out of the budget for maintenance and replacement of the city vehicle fleet will compromise the city’s ability to provide essential services like snow clearing and transit. It was just a few years ago that old equipment breakdown prevented us from keeping our street sweeping and transit buses running. This budget money is meant to prevent that from happening again.
- This puts another 5 million dollar hole in the city’s budget.
He expressed concern that Norris’ promises are adding up:
$5 million plus $7.4 million, which is the dollar difference between his 1% tax increase and the City’s 2021 budget. That is a total of $12.4 million, almost the same amount of the City’s complete snow clearing budget.
“He needs to tell residents what services he is going to cut to make up for this,” said Clark. “If he isn’t going to make cuts to balance the budget, then what he plans to do shows incredible fiscal irresponsibility and a real lack of understanding about how to manage a city’s operations and budget, particularly in a time of covid and financial uncertainty.”
“He is going down a dangerous road,” said Clark. “I will continue to make plans based on the realities of what the city can afford.”
Clark emphasized that he will not make a promise he can’t keep and that what he is offering Saskatoon residents is a responsible and do-able plan for how we are going to work together, support each other, and get through the uncertainty of covid, stronger.