Mayor Gerald Aalbers has come back from the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) convention with a lot of things to look out for from the provincial government.
At the convention, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced an increase in revenue sharing for municipalities in the next fiscal year. Moe told convention goers that funding under the revenue share will total $278 million.
The revenue-sharing model was revised in 2018 which resulted in a decline in $16 million from the previous year.
Mayor Gerald Aalbers says it’s a positive for the city but they won’t know how much money the city will be getting until the provincial government announces their budget.
“We always appreciate support in the forms of grants and revenue sharing with the government. We don’t know how much that will be. It may give us the opportunity to do more infrastructure work in the city subject to how much we receive.”
He says if the extra funds aren’t put into projects this year, it will be saved for future projects.
SUMA also passed a number of resolutions including one to lobby the provincial government to cut PST on municipal infrastructure projects.
“The concern is that it adds another 6 per cent to the cost of the project which in turn is being returned to the province and in many cases, the government is funding part of the project.”
Aalbers says SUMA members believe the tax to be a hindrance and a burden on taxpayers.
One of the issues Aalbers wanted to discuss more at the convention was revenue sharing on cannabis products. He says the answer was short and not the one he was hoping for.
“The Minister of Finance Honourable Donna Harpauer Revenue brought it up during the bear pit session revenues are less than they expected and aren’t prepared to share any at this time.”
The convention’s theme was Building Sustainable Hometowns and another key topic in the bear pit session was mental health and the funding for mental health. Aalbers mentions that it was a topic that affects many communities throughout the province.
“I don’t think there is anyone that is exempt from the issues we’re seeing in our community and communities in Saskatchewan. I think that was brought very clearly to the government and I can’t say the government hasn’t been addressing it – but there’s always the question of are they are addressing it enough.”
He says it’s again part of the waiting game for the provincial budget which will be released by the end of March.
During the conference, SUMA announced they will be changing its name to the Municipalities of Saskatchewan (MOS).
“The federal government does not recognize municipalities under 100,000, they only recognize it as a rural municipality. The association felt it was important to address those concerns from a federal and provincial identification issue.”
The rebranding is expected to roll out over the next year.