Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mistress on the Mend

The Mistress is recovering from a minor surgical procedure today and will be unable to post. Let's focus today's discussion on the upcoming budget and the fact that after 5 hours yesterday Council was unable to accomplish much in the way of trimming it (and in fact Pat Lorje attempting to increase it ever so slightly).

Get well Mistress and hopefully your faithful readers will give you some ideas for tomorrow's post.

The Mistress' Holiday Helper


  1. Hope you have a speedy recovery Elaine, there is no minor surgery (especially during the holidays).

    I will start today's thread by expressing my disappointment with Council on their ability to cut even the slightest bit of the budget. It is confirming the suspicion that everyone one this Council is stuck on spending without any consideration for the consequences.

    Budgets are like Christmas lists to Santa (with the tax payer being Santa). You can ask for whatever you want, but at some point you need to realize that you won't get everything.

    A noble gesture would be for Darren Hill to scrap his pet project (New2U) for a year until the city is in better financial shape. I won't even get into why we need that much money to simply allow people to dump their old trash on the curb sides, but I digress. If this program is really getting a green light in the current budgetary circumstances I have to wonder what other 'luxury' spending is also. When you are facing the highest tax increase in years, it is probably not the best time to be introducing discretionary little pilot projects. Worse yet, is that no one on Council as thought to question it.

  2. I read the article in the SP this morning and was left scratching my head. It said Council wanted to add a position (at $113k per year) that would be emergency planner for snow/fire situations.

    My question, have we never had someone at City Hall that handled this duty? Have we gone the last 100 years with no one contingency plan for snowstorms (guessing from last year that maybe this is true). I find it hard to believe no one has been in charge of this before, and I question why we need a separate position in this economic climate for such a role. Can no one currently employed really be qualified and have the time to do this?

    Good gosh, this Council likes to spend money.

  3. Anon 7:38

    I believe that Hill has already stated that this is not the year to introduce a new project.

    On a different note; if Saskatoon got an extra 8.6 M in revenue sharing why am I even facing an increase in my property tax?

    Dazed and confused as to what our council is up to!

  4. south bridge, river landing, art gallery, police station, 2 new interchanges, more debt servicing.....

  5. I just pray that my Councillor is not acclaimed (again!) next election. Win or lose, I just want to answer the door when he comes knocking for support. I've been dreaming of what I would say.....

  6. The biggest problem is debt servicing for Atch's narcissistic legacy building. Debt servicing charges now account for over $200 of every home property tax bill. As I understand it (and I'm not digging through city budget records... this post is on my employer's time!) we pay around $15 million per year to service Saskatoon's debt. It was around $3 million before Atch heaved himself into the mayor's office.

    Don Atchison will bankrupt this city. And take down every taxpayer with him.

  7. its around 11-12 million, but increasing each year.

  8. That is an absolute joke if those numbers are correct. The sad thing is that he is still not done feeding his ego and taking out loans under the City's name to build capital projects that either aren't needed right now or increasingly luxurious (I'm looking at the planned art gallery that seems to be modeled after the Palace of Versailles).

  9. If we werent building a south bridge, a new victoria bridge, developing the downtown, increasing the snow removal budget and creating new vibrant neighbourhoods and out taxes had gone up, that would be a travesty. But the fact is we are growing and with growth comes costs. What is the situation going to be in 3 years when the taxes from all the resdential and commercial development that is happening today begins to roll in. And we arent paying for bridges anymore (the north will be later than 3 years from now).

    Good times are ahead.

  10. What will happen? I suspect that the Council (hopefully a new one by then) will use the extra money to pay down the debt that this Council ran up.

    I can appreciate the costs that are necessary, such as the 2 bridges and developing downtown. It is the ridiculous projects that aren't needed. Like the art gallery, which is going to cost the equivalent of 2 Traffic bridges at least. Why are projects such as these being undertaken when the city is under such financial stress from other projects?

    From a personal economic standpoint, what would your wife say if while you were in the midst of renovating your kitchen (downtown), unexpectedly had a car break down and require replacing (traffic bridge), had just purchased a different new vehicle (south bridge), and you came home and told her that you had just purchased a brand new state of the art plasma television (art gallery) to replace the perfectly good one sitting in the living room? Then started entertaining thoughts of buying new golf clubs (water park)?

    It just doesn't make sense to be committing to all the luxury capital projects while we struggle to pay for the necessary ones.

  11. I agree that the water park (golf clubs) may not be the best investment at this point, but I am happy to see that new ideas are being brought to the table. But I would like to say that if we never borrowed money to build for today, we would never be building.

    The art gallery (plasma TV) seems to be a major point to many people. I dont see what is wrong with adding it to what will be an arts destination centre for the city. I just dont think the opposition to the move of the mendel is reasonable. Wouldn't a beautiful, safe, cultured downtown lead to more people living there, therefore reducing the urban sprawl and the city costs in developing new neighbourhoods?
    Is it the move of the mendel or is the money being spent that is problem? I think that issue gets lumped into one when it shouldn't. Would you be ok if we kept the mendel where it is but spent 50mil to upgrade it?

  12. Anon 1:54,

    The reality of the matter is that the cost is, and should be, factored into decision making. Especially when you are operating on a budget funded by tax paying citizens. Just because something would be nice for the city does not mean that we need to proceed with it regardless of cost associated.

    Would I like a new art gallery? Definitely. You know what else, I think if Saskatoon ever wants to compete nationally we need a new stadium/arena. Is it feasible right now to build one? Probably not. Would one located somewhere near the 25th street grounds do wonders to revitalize the area? Yes it would.

    Regarding your point about it creating a cultural centre downtown, I doubt anyone will be swayed on moving downtown or not based on an Art Gallery being located 2 miles closer to the centre. With the development that is going on, there will be no issue filling the space. In a perfect world some investor will come build something as opposed to all us citizens pitching in and building something we already have. The thought that the art gallery would be deciding point for people as almost as absurd as the heritage people saying that tearing down the bridge will impact tourism. Because our old traffic bridge is such a booming tourist attraction nationally. Many tourists come to Saskatoon simply to walk across it.

  13. There are many things I want but cannot afford. What is wrong with this council? Cutting a cheque means having the money in the bank.
    I would like to see a Welcome to Saskatoon sign for guests coming to our city...what is it with this Saskatoon Shines crap! Pretty arrogant. As I travelled throughout Canada this year...most communities welcome folks, not tell me they shine....Bah humbug! my 2 cents. GEt well mistress! Your blog is awesome and does good work....THank you helper!

  14. Atch is on a bender, using the city's credit card.

    Page 295 of the 2011 preliminary budget, under General Services, reveals that Saskatoon's debt servicing charges are up 55% from 2010 to 2011.

    Total debt servicing 2010: $12,263,900.
    Total debt servicing 2011: $18,990,300.

  15. The fact is cities don't have piles of cash sitting around, so using loans or debt to fund capital projects is a reality. However, that doesn't mean that it needs to be abused like it is. This Council across the board has no regard for financial prudence. I fear that Atch and his merry councillors will be remembered in the same light as Devine and his crew.

  16. With respect to the above post:

    Saskatoon's debt in 2003 was $27 million.

    Seven years of Atch and Co. have brought it to $175 million.

    That's beyond "abuse." It's simply ridiculous.

  17. December 15, 2010 12:22 PM
    Anonymous said...
    I agree that the water park (golf clubs) may not be the best investment at this point


    Considering the City's investment in the waterpark is ZERO.....

    December 15, 2010 5:37 PM
    Anonymous said...
    With respect to the above post:

    Saskatoon's debt in 2003 was $27 million.

    Seven years of Atch and Co. have brought it to $175 million.


    And when other levels of government offer to cost share but there is a limited time window to get the cost sharing should the City..

    Borrow money so they can pursue a project with cost sharing from the Prov and/or Feds?


    Say, "nah, we don't want to borrow any money so we don't want your cost sharing arrangement. Well just pay for the whole thing ourselves."

  18. The city should exercise prudent management. Saskatoon managed to grow to 200,000 people and only find itself $27 million in the hole...

    Yet a 10% population increase over 7 years (realized from factors beyond Saskatoon's control) justifies a 650% increase in debt?

    Not to mention a 30% increase in property taxes in that same time span.

    Following your logic, next time The Brick is offering to pay the GST on big-screen TVs, every citizen run out and buy five of them.

    There is something is seriously wrong with the financial management of this city.

  19. Anon 10:20,

    How does your rationale of thinking make any sense? The completely ironic thing is that you are oblivious to the fact that the other levels of government that are 'helping' are also helping out with your tax dollars. So in the end it is still the tax payer who is on the hook for the bill.

    Secondly, because the Feds are willing to share a portion of the costs does not mean we should pursue as much as possible in the limited time. When you do that you cause construction nightmares (see Saskatoon this summer). There is a difference between growing and responsibly growing. I'm all for progress and growth here, but I'd rather we do it right as opposed to just spending money without a plan (which seems to be the case).

  20. This has to be a joke? Did anyone read today's article about paring down the budget $850k, what a scamming council. It is like they have all taken a page from Darren Hill's book.

    From SP: "council's budget surgery included axing plans for a small-scale junk recycling program, reducing money for transit overtime, asking for $150,000 to be trimmed from the police budget, which still requires approval from the board of police comissioners, and increasing revenue expected from leisure facilities in 2011."

    What I really found interesting here is the last line. They increased the revenue expected from leisure facilities in 2011? How in the last day did the expect revenue change at all? They simply couldn't shed enough off the budget, so they artificially lowered our mill rate by just increasing expected revenue. What a complete farce. They conveniently upped the expected revenue by just enough to keep the mill rate below 4% for the presses (3.99%)


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