Happy New Year!
I hope you have all had a good Holiday season. In this update I will touch on the 2014 Budget and the Infill Guideline situation.
We completed the budgeting process in early December and passed the highest tax increase that I have seen – 7.4%. This will result in about 108$ more per year (9$ a month) in property tax for a home worth $300,000. I don’t take it lightly that we introduced this increase. I believe that the increase in investment is needed to avoid paying even higher costs down the road if we allow our infrastructure to deteriorate further, but I also think that it compels us to make changes to how we do things to avoid these kind of increases into the future.
This will mean doing a meaningful review of our operations through empowering our staff, utilizing technology, and being willing to rethink our services in order to make the best of the resources we already have. The recent street sweeping overhaul was one example of how we can improve things.
Second, as I have said before, we have to change the way we are growing our City. Our own analysis is showing very clearly that right now growth is not paying for growth. The new neighbourhoods we are adding to the outside edges of the City simply don’t cover the costs of what it takes to provide transit, fire, police, street sweeping, park maintenance, and transportation infrastructure it takes to keep them vital. Channeling growth into a more compact form and building a transportation system that provides convenient alternatives to residents will be crucial to curtailing tax increases into the future.
I am as convinced as ever that we won’t be able to both keep taxes low and build urban sprawl. I see no benefit in pitting suburban neighbourhoods against urban neighborhoods, this is not my intent. What we need to do is take a look at these real costs and figure out as a whole City what the best growth model will be into the future. This will be the focus of some very crucial planning over the next year as part of the “Growing Forward: Shaping our City” planning process. More information can be found on my website or the City of Saskatoon website.
The Infill Guideline process is moving forward and we have received the report developed with recommendations on guidelines for how to ensure new builds in old neighbourhoods fit in better and cause less harm to surrounding residents. The document contains several key recommendations for protecting existing trees, ensuring that proper drainage plans are established, reducing the height of the sidewalls of new houses, and a number of other recommendations about the form that a building could take. The report also recommends that garden and garage suites be allowed on a case by case basis after consultation, and that the City consider allowing up to 4 units to be developed on corner lots.
Now that the recommendations have been received, the details need to be worked out and formed into a bylaw. There is a plan for a public meeting in the New Year to give people a chance to understand and discuss the recommendations further. I have put a link to the whole report on my website at www.charlieclark.ca
If you want to get information on when this meeting will be or about other issues affecting Ward 6 and the City, please consider signing up to my E-newsletter which I send out about 3 times a month. You can sign up easily through my website at www.charlieclark.ca
All the best!