My goal for the next 4 years will include continued infrastructure improvements and investments in facilities that keep citizens active, healthy, and proud of their city, while keeping taxes low.
My four-point plan to drive down property tax increases
Every day, I talk to residents about their challenges in paying the bills - seniors on fixed incomes, small business owners, family members working multiple jobs.
In the midst of a pandemic, issues of cost and affordability have become even more real for residents and businesses.
Many in our community have lost jobs, and many businesses have suffered.
While Saskatoon has a diverse and resilient economy, we are not immune to world-wide economic uncertainties.
I take this very seriously.
I want citizens to be proud of every tax dollar spent and to see the result in a city that has efficient services and great quality of life.
I HAVE WORKED WITH CITY COUNCIL TO:
- Bring in lower taxes increases than previous City Councils: an average of 1.25% lower in the past four years than 2012-2016.
- For 2020/2021, bringing in the lowest tax increase in a decade.
- Offer the second most competitive business tax environment in Canada
- Maintain our Triple AAA credit rating.
I believe to cut costs you need to be willing to disrupt old systems and throw out ideas that no longer work, while embracing new ideas and different ways of working.
We will bring down costs by being a forward thinking city, embracing technological innovation and the opportunities to become more energy efficient.
And we have done this.
BY WORKING SMARTER AND MODERNIZING OUR TECHNOLOGY, WE HAVE SAVED OVER $7 MILLION. THESE INCLUDE:
- Moving to LED streetlights - saving $850,000/year
- GPS and telematics on City fleet (reduced fuel usage and better use of staff time) – saving $500-600,000/year
- More efficient snow removal - saving $750k/year
- Changed Cell phone contracts - $3.1m savings over 5 years
- Reorganized fire services to avoid having to build an additional firehall, saving $2m/year
These are just some examples of innovations we have achieved.
Over the next four years, here is my Four Point Plan for residents to get the most from their tax dollars:
1. DRIVE MORE EFFICIENT CITY GROWTH
Saskatoon envisions a future population of 500,000.
We can save $500 million in infrastructure costs alone if our growth plan builds upwards with infill as well as outwards.
There has always been talk of getting more people living in the downtown.We’ve moved beyond talk to action. There are now commitments for close to 1,000 new housing units in the City Center. The people who move into these buildings will create a demand for more services, and we will see the Downtown transform.
I will continue to push for more balanced growth. This will maximize the use of existing infrastructure and build a more efficient city.
2. SAVE MONEY THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL INNOVATION
Environmental sustainability is a winning economic strategy. Greener cities attract businesses and highly skilled workers. I’ve been pushing our city to catch up to others.
Now I want us to forge ahead, not be left behind:
- Implement the High Performance Building Policy for the City of Saskatoon, incorporating best practices in energy efficiency into the City of Saskatoon’s own buildings;
- Explore further expansion of the Landfill Gas project to generate additional revenue for the City;
- Support a significant expansion in building retrofits - through the Mayor’s Roundtable on Retrofits - working with Industry and other levels of government to create the conditions for home and businesses to implement retrofits. This will save utility costs, improve buildings, create jobs, and reduce harmful emissions.
- Establish Electric Vehicle charging networks in partnership with industry, as well as convert City vehicles to EV. This will make it more practical to make the transition to EV and reduce operating costs.
3. EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY
We have been working hard to modernize our systems when it comes to embracing the opportunities of technology to find efficiencies and improve services.
This past term we have laid the groundwork for the Fusion project, a transformative initiative replacing old outdated software systems with one master database. It also adopts industry best practices in the areas of Finance, Human Resources, Supply Chain Management and Asset Management.
Fusion is estimated to save $40m in operating costs in the first 6 years following implementation and $10m/year after that.
This next term will be key for implementation.
And this is just one example of the savings we will find by continuing to modernize our systems.
4. LEVERAGE PARTNERSHIPS TO DELIVER VALUE TO CITIZENS
We have prioritized partnerships as a cost-saving approach to building new facilities for Saskatoon. Examples include Merlis Belsher Place, the Nutrien Wonderhub, Optimist Hill and Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
Historically, the City would have financed, owned, and operated these facilities. Under this new model, our partners were able to raise millions of dollars for their development as well as assume responsibility for operating the facilities.
This drives down direct costs to taxpayers while strengthening quality of life for residents, generating jobs, and driving tourism and visitors to our city.
In the upcoming terms there are key opportunities to build on this approach including the:
- Building of a North East Leisure facility
- Renewal of White Buffalo Youth Lodge
Working with Meewasin Valley Authority on improving trails and access to our beloved river valley.
This is my plan to drive down tax increases.
To have citizens proud of every tax dollar spent and for them to see their investment in a city that has efficient services and great quality of life.