Sask. government walks back cuts to grants-in-lieu for some municipalities

Sask. government walks back cuts to grants-in-lieu for some municipalities

The government of Saskatchewan has capped reductions to grants-in-lieu to municipalities so that some communities won't be as hard hit by the budget decision.

In its latest budget, the provincial government decided to nix grants-in-lieu doled out to municipalities by SaskPower and SaskEnergy. On top of other revenue sharing losses, some communities were facing 40-plus per cent losses in funding from the government, or millions of dollars worth.

On Friday, the government said it would maintain a portion of the grants-in-lieu for nine municipalities so that they would not experience a reduction of more than 30 per cent in revenue sharing — at least for this year.

- Yorkton.

- Moose Jaw.

- Humboldt.

- North Battleford.

- Estevan.

- Melville.

- Weyburn.

- Prince Albert.

- Melfort.

Government Relations Minister Donna Harpauer said the decision came after the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and municipalities voiced their concern over how the cuts would adversely affect communities. 

"Was it an oversight? I'd say it was," said Harpauer.

2 mayors unimpressed

Regina and Saskatoon will still be on the hook to make up multimillion-dollar shortfalls in their budgets. They recently held emergency city council meetings to discuss how to address the shortfall.

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said the provincial cap to grants-in-lieu is not going to help. 

"It provides relief to nine out of the 109 communities that were affected by the grants-in-lieu reduction that has been put forward," said Clark.

He added that the grants-in-lieu program is confusing and uneven, and needs to be replaced with a more sustainable, consistent plan moving forward.

Clark said that any resolution should recognize that Crowns utilize services provided by the cities, towns and villages they operate in. 

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere said he was disappointed with the minister's announcement, and the grants-in-lieu program should be scrapped completely.

"It's unfair; it's not uniform; and it seems to be somewhat arbitrary," said Fougere. 

"We want to see a change that is fair and equitable. If the province is going to ask us to share the load of their deficit, they have to be more fair and equitable."

Fougere added that the lack of consultation or notice about the decision was problematic. He said this caused the city to break open its budget and reconsider it.

But Harpauer said, "I think the message was translated by myself; it was translated by the premier time and time again that this was going to be a very difficult budget. We have said time and time again that everything is on the table."

Cutting the grants was originally slated to save the province $36 million, but this current decision has reduced that to $32 million.