Pubdate: Thu, 22 Feb 2018
Source: StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Copyright: 2018 The StarPhoenix
Author: Phil Tank
Page: A1


The president of the organization that represents Saskatchewan's
cities and towns wants a more collaborative relationship with Premier
Scott Moe's new provincial government.

"So far, so good," Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association
(SUMA) president Gordon Barnhart said Wednesday. "I think that they've
been saying they want to have consultation before decisions are made
and I think that's a step in the right direction."

Moe took over from premier Brad Wall last month as leader of the
Saskatchewan Party and the province's new premier.

The last budget under Wall, tabled in March 2017, slashed some
grants-in-lieu payments to urban municipalities, which left city and
town halls scrambling to replace the lost revenue.

Many municipal 2018 budgets still reflect the struggle to cope with
fewer provincial dollars. Reduced provincial revenue was blamed for
more than half of the City of Saskatoon's 2018 property tax increase
of 4.7 per cent.

Other cities, like Regina, are still formulating their 2018

Moe warned of another "tight budget" at the SUMA convention in Regina
this month.

Still, Barnhart said he is encouraged by the degree of consultation,
including a meeting between SUMA executives and Finance Minister Donna
Harpauer and Government Relations Minister Warren Kaeding.

"That doesn't mean we'll get everything that we ask for," Barnhart
said of the April 10 provincial budget.

He declined to reveal specifics, but Saskatoon Coun. Darren Hill, who
also serves on the SUMA executive, shared a few details at a city
council committee meeting Tuesday.

Hill said the province is not expected to restore the grants-inlieu
from Crown corporations, but there were "great conversations" on
possible replacement revenue.

The province is reviewing the revenue-sharing formula, but extensive
changes are not expected, Hill said. The Sask. Party government has
shared one-fifth of provincial sales tax revenue with municipalities
for most of its time in government.

Barnhart said SUMA is lobbying for municipalities to get one-third of
the expected revenue headed to the province from taxes on marijuana.
The federal government has committed to send 75 per cent of marijuana
tax revenue to provinces.

Barnhart said municipalities are only looking for reimbursement of the
costs associated with legalized marijuana, such as training police
officers to detect impaired motorists.

"It's not going to be a gravy train as far as I can see," he

Barnhart repeated that SUMA would like to see more details on the
province's plan for legal marijuana as soon as possible.
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MAP posted-by: Matt