With the end of June approaching, I hope you have been enjoying the summer-like weather and the many events happening in our community this month. June marks Pride Month and National Indigenous History Month, along with World Refugee Day, and Doors Open Saskatoon. This month the City unveiled its new Community Tipi and Reconciliation Visual Identity. There has been a lot to celebrate.
June has also brought a lot more information about our budget process and funding gap. As your Councillor, I have been working hard to try and find meaningful ways to engage neighbours and Administration on addressing this gap. Further details will be available later in this newsletter specific to budget deliberations. You will also find highlights from the May City Council meeting and what to expect at tomorrow's meeting.
Before we start the newsletter, I wanted to offer my sincere condolences to Natasha Fox's family and friends. I was deeply saddened to hear about the fatal collision of a beloved teacher and active member of our community. As a follow up to a series of motions tabled at the May 2023 City Council meeting, safety and cycling improvements will be further debated at tomorrow's meeting.
Ward 8 Updates
Budget and the Funding Gap
The City recently identified a significant funding gap. This gap was identified as a part of our budgeting process and is not an indication of the final property tax impact for 2024 or 2025. Nor does this funding gap impact the 2023 budget.
With that being said, we are clearly in a challenging position, mainly due to inflationary costs rising by 30%. More than half of the funding gap is driven by inflation. Some examples of these pressures include:
To address these pressures City Council directed Special Budget Meetings be established to go through each budget line. This approach uses both Administrative and Council perspectives to make intentional decisions about funding and service levels.
Our first budget meeting took place on June 22, which had multiple options for consideration ranging from deferred spending, reducing phased in funding, reviewing positions, and increasing some user fees. These options offered an opportunity to address nearly half of the funding gap in the first meeting.
It was incredibly frustrating that the opportunity to make meaningful impacts on the budgetary gap at this meeting did not take place. After a lengthy discussion, Council will continue along the process established to work with Administration on reducing the funding gap. Our next meeting will take place all day on July 25.
It is my intention to post updates on the items being discussed and to get resident feedback. These decisions will be incredibly difficult and will impact services in 2024 and 2025. Utilizing the process initially approved by Council earlier this month will allow neighbours to see the items being deliberated and allow time to provide myself and Council with feedback.
In the interim, the full report, which will next be considered on July 25, can be found here. At that meeting, we will have even more options to consider.
Women Leading: Civic Engagement Forum for Immigrant and Refugee Women in Saskatoon
I am proud to be a part of a Working Group that is creating a first of its kind event. Along with the five women on Council, the Mayor's Office, members of Administration and International Women of Saskatoon, we are planning a forum set to take place this fall. The forums looks to provide Immigrant and Refugee Women a dedicated opportunity to connect with their local government and local government leaders and to learn about leadership opportunities.
Immigrant and Refugee women are under-represented in leadership positions including on civic boards. Connections and information are the first step to breaking down barriers to leadership. Furthermore, connected residents are more likely to see public services positively and to seek support when they need it.
This forum looks to do the following:
The City Council Strategic Priority and Leadership Initiative application can be found here, and will be before City Council for approval tomorrow.
City Council Meetings (June)
Zoning Bylaw Amendment
A Zoning Bylaw has been underway over the past year, and this set of amendments is the sixth package to be received.
The proposed amendments in this package, if adopted, look to achieve several outcomes, including:
Further details on each section are available here.
Corridor Planning Program
To implement the Corridor land use designations in the Official Community Plan and in order to meet the vision laid out in the Corridor Transformation Plan, new zoning districts will need to be added to the Zoning Bylaw.
This part of the Corridor Planning Program is technical in nature and only intended to create the tools needed to implement the land use policies that have previously been consulted on, discussed, and approved. This will not affect any land use decisions that have already been made, and no properties will be rezoned as part of this stage.
Four new zoning districts for the Corridor Growth Area are proposed to provide regulations and uses which align with objectives of the corridor land use designations as well as goals of the Corridor Transformation Plan. The process for developing the new districts began with internal partners and stakeholders, followed by in-depth technical consultation with industry experts and a high-level review by other stakeholder groups. A combination of existing zoning standards and best practices have been applied in drafting the proposed districts.
Read more about the proposed districts here.
In follow up to four Notice of Motions tabled at the May 31, 2023 Regular Business Meeting, City Council will be debating motions regarding road safety audits, active transportation projects and ultimately opportunities for improving cycling and safety on our roadways and pathway systems.
Currently there are over 70 pieces of correspondence from neighbours, in addition to direct emails I have received, sharing feedback on next steps. I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to share their thoughts about cycling safety improvements.
New Animal Services Contracts
The City has awarded new contracts for both the provision of Animal Control and Dangerous Animals Bylaw Enforcement and Poundkeeping Services to the Saskatoon Animal Control Agency (SACA). The agreement follows a public competitive procurement process and independent oversight to maintain fairness in selecting a provider for these services.
Further details about the process and next steps can be found here.
Future of the City Greenhouse
Recently, an engineering assessment indicated increasing safety and structural issues with the City’s greenhouse facility and recommended it be vacated.
Before City Council are a variety of options for the future of City greenhouse operations. The recommendation before City Council is that in the short term (three to five years), plant material would be procured from the private sector while the City continues to pursue partnerships and develop the best greenhouse model possible. Further reporting will occur as discussions with partners progress. This recommendation ensures that Conservatory material currently stored in the Greenhouse will be moved to suitable City facilities for the time being.
The full report can be found here.
Additional reports of interest
City Council Meetings (May)
Update on Downtown Event and Entertainment District
The Administration continues to update the current anticipated sequence of upcoming reports and decision-making milestones for City Council in relation to the Downtown Event and Entertainment District project.
As has been previously shared, no final decision has been made until a funding strategy can be presented.
The most recent report can be found here.
Electric Scooter Pilot Launch
The successful vendors for a two-year pilot to provide the shared e-scooter pilot program in Saskatoon are Bird and Neuron. This pilot will be in place for two years.
The framework for the pilot requires e-scooter renters to follow the Provincial regulations: e-scooters cannot be operated at a speed greater than 24 km/hr, minimum rider age of 16 years or older and riders are required to wear helmets.
Shared e-scooters must operate within the approved service area (found on the vendors app) on shared-use paths, pathways, cycle tracks, protected bike lanes and – where no such paths are available – may ride on streets with posted speed limits of 50 km/hr or lower. Shared e-scooters are not permitted to ride on sidewalks.
Personal e-scooters are not currently allowed on any city street, sidewalk or pathway. The City plans to consider allowing private e-scooters in 2024 once we have conducted a year of this pilot program.
To learn more about this pilot please visit saskatoon.ca/electric-scooter-pilot.
Dedicated Transit Support Workers
The City is exploring creating dedicated transit support workers for Saskatoon Transit. This approach looks to work off the existing Community Support Officer program and ensure Transit is included in the update of our existing community support program.
This program looks to support all riders and operators and bridge the real or perceived issues that many transit systems, including our own, are experiencing.
The transit piece is not yet a funded program and would need to be flushed out and presented at budget deliberations this fall.
Additional reports of interest
Welcome to the Gaybourhood
World Refugee Day
47th Annual Civic Pancake Breakfast
Visiting the Pilot BRT Station
Touring the City Yards
Celebrating the grand re-opening of Congregation Agudas Israel
Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) Spring Symposium
What's happening in Ward 8!
Here are some other great things happening in Ward 8 soon or put on by members of our community.
Sarina Gersher - Ward 8 Councillor