Well, November is wrapping up. This update will be organized a little differently than usually because the upcoming meeting on Monday is our annual budget deliberations, but we have also already had two Council meetings this month! I'll start with Budget notes, flag some relevant engagement projects, move to notes from the last Council meeting, and then fill you in on my thoughts about the special Council meeting regarding the Arena site selection as part of the Downtown Entertainment District project work.

Budget 2023

2023 is the second year of a two-year budget. Because of this, debate will focus on any adjustments that need to be made to what has already been set in the 2023 plan.

Here you'll find more on the budget as a whole and the process. Budget deliberations are a meeting of City Council so if you want to weigh in at that Council meeting directly, the process is here. As always, I commit to reading and considering everything you send me before the meeting begins at 1pm even if I'm not able to respond.

General adjustments
The administration is recommending a number of general adjustments to address pressures that have arisen since the 2023 budget plan was set out last year. These include adjustments to the Police budget, as well as adjustments related to gas, lighting, etc. These changes, if approved will result in a total property tax increase of 4.38%, up from the 3.53% set out last year. All opportunities to reduce this impact have been explored, and none remain beyond reducing service levels. Broad and challenging discussion will take place Monday and into next week until the budget is decided on. A full report on adjustments proposed is at 6.2.2. here.

Attainable Housing
As noted last month, I will be supporting a revised level of support for the Attainable Housing program. We have fallen behind on this funding this year and without an adjustment will have less resources available than any year since 2000 (the average annual investment since 2000 has been $1.1M). This is simply untenable at a time when affordable housing development is needed now more than ever. In addition, standalone one-time funding is needed to develop our next Housing Plan (the current one is outdated and expires at the end of 2022). Most if the impacts of the adjustments I'm proposing in 2023 won't change the mill rate (tax increase), but we do need to continue building a baseline of funding ($750,000 annually) for Attainable Housing work into the mill rate, so I will be supporting a small increase there as well (equivalent to 0.036% increase to mill rate). The reporting is here at item 6.1.3.

I am also hearing from a lot of residents with concerns about the wellbeing of folks who are without housing in our community. Addressing homelessness requires coordination across our community and while we're still figuring out what our role is in the long term, the City must play an ongoing role across the attainable housing spectrum and response to homelessness.

Engagement - Ward 2

To see all projects open for engagement visit www.saskatoon.ca/engage

Industrial Interface Study

The City is conducting a study to determine if there are ways to address existing nuisances where residential areas are impacted by heavy industrial businesses. A survey is open until end of January and the study team js forming an Advisory Group that will include representatives from two groups: i) heavy industrial businesses and property owners, and ii) residents of neighbourhoods impacted by heavy industrial areas. Many Ward 2 neighbourhoods are directly impacted. Please consider engaging! Project page with survey here.

Connecting Avenue C - all modes

In support of the City's active transportation goals, Avenue C from Spadina Cres. to 45th Street has been identified as an All Ages and Abilities (AAA) cycling route. The corridor will be designed as a safe and inclusive space for all modes of transportation that connects the people of Saskatoon to each other and to many destinations in the city. Background on the design options and a survey are available until Nov 30 here.

17th Street Extension

The City of Saskatoon is seeking input from the residents of Holiday Park and King George on the potential extension of 17th Street West from Avenue P to Avenue W. Background on the possible extension and a survey are available until Dec 15 here.


Updates and Decisions  - Nov 21 Council 

Transit Audit results
The investigation into service disruption in Saskatoon Transit during the 2021-22 winter period by the City's Auditor is complete. Key issues that led to service disruptions include ineffective operations of stores in Transit, ineffective governance processes and an ineffective preventative maintenance program. It is frustrating to know that these could have been avoided, but also a relief to know where to address change to prevent future disruptions. Ongoing auditor engagement and Council oversight will ensure the necessary changes are made. While fleet age and quantity wasn't a driver of the disruptions, we are also moving forward a fleet renewal strategy to be sure that investments keep our fleet within reasonable average age ranges. 

Circle Drive West
The final report and recommendation for the future reconfiguration of Circle Drive West were approved by both Committee and Council this month. Thank you to all who engaged on this important project. Because of your efforts, the City's Transportation department recommended next steps relevant to Montgomery Place access in their report (which were approved). There is lots yet to work out, but with this project being a long-term issue, I am confident that we will come to an outcome that improves access into Montgomery while achieving other improvements along Circle Drive.

Shared Electric Kick Scooter Program
The city is working on an electric kick scooter pilot project in the city. A regulatory framework has been reviewed and approved by Council and is being developed for implementation. The two-year pilot will begin in April of 2023 and will include up to two companies. This pilot project will be funded and operated by e-scooter vendors, and assessment surveys will be conducted to gather feedback from the Saskatoon public. 

Considerations and Options for Supporting Low-Income Households
The City is changing the residential waste services to be a user fee-based utility and is opting to introduce a phased transitional waste utility credit of $100 for three years to ease the impact on low income households. More broadly, we'll also be pursuing a more comprehensive affordability access program with equity principles embedded. More to come on this.

Updates & Decisions - Nov 16 Arena/DEED

Arena site selection
Selection for the Downtown Entertainment and Event District (DEED) Arena were narrowed down to two locations and to move forward with the planning for potential development of Downtown Event and Entertainment District project, a critical decision on site was needed. Through assessments, consultations and engagement, Council came to the decision that the Midtown Shopping Centre North Parking Lot will be the future site of the Arena component of the DEED. Beyond the details of the selection between sites, I've had lots of questions about what this means for commitment to the overall project, cost to residents, etc. 

While funds have now been spent to secure the North Midtown site, this does not guarantee that the project will move forward. Ultimate approval of the project will hinge on a feasible funding strategy for the project as a whole. Council has stated from the outset that we want to see a plan that requires no, or minimal property tax impact. Now that the site is secured, further planning can begin which will arrive at overall project cost estimates. Details such as what the public realm will involve, what scale the changes to the convention center (TCUPlace) will be, and more will need to also be worked out. Once a project budget is in place, a funding plan can be drafted and presented publicly. If it is approved, this is when the project could proceed. So, what of the funds spent to date? Any funds spent on land to date have been sourced through a reserve specifically for land purchases (that is funded by profits we generate from land sales) and these costs would be returned to that reserve if the project doesn't proceed. Purchased lands would be re-sold, or used for other civic purposes that would fund the costs. 

Overall, much more discussion on this project is to come. I'm excited to get to hear your thoughts about what would excite you about a downtown entertainment district and what we should focus on as the project plans come together to build out a plan that has strong benefit for residents of Ward 2. 


Budget meeting | November 28th

City Council meets in person on Monday with virtual attendance options as well. This is our annual budget deliberation meeting. Click here to find the full agenda. Correspondence on budget items can be made in writing or as a request to speak (accommodated by phone). Meetings will continue to be live streamed.


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Hilary Gough


Saskatoon #yxe City Councillor - representing Ward 2. Settler on Treaty 6 territory & traditional homelands of the Métis. She/Her