Budget benefits municipalities
by Phil Ambroziak
Although he hasn’t had a chance to examine the entire contents of the 2014-15 provincial budget, Meadow Lake mayor Gary Vidal likes what he sees so far.
Tabled by provincial finance minister Ken Krawetz March 19, the budget features a $71 million surplus, revenue of $14.07 billion and expenses of $14 billion. And, even though overall government spending was reduced by 0.2 per cent to maintain a balanced budget again this year, $394.6 million has still been earmarked for municipalities – an increase of $32.8 million compared to last year.
“That’s a significant increase, but we’re still going to have to wait to see exactly where that money goes,” Vidal remarked.
Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison agreed with Vidal in terms of the significance of the overall amount of funding for municipalities.
“It’s not insubstantial by any means,” he said. “It’s a reflection of the fact we have some great communities and the City of Meadow Lake is certainly one of them.”
According to the province, the municipal funding will be used to help build communities and to enhance quality of life for their residents. A total of $257 million will be allocated to communities throughout Saskatchewan this year via municipal revenue sharing, based on the formula of one point of the provincial sales tax. Meadow Lake has benefited from municipal revenue sharing in the past, something Vidal said is vital when the city prepares its own annual budget. In recent years, the city has received more than $1 million annually.
“We’re always going to be thankful for that – it’s a huge support for us,” the mayor added.
Other aspects of the budget Vidal was pleased to see included investments in highways, as well as adult basic education.
“My reaction can’t be anything but positive if we’re able to have more trained people available to take on skilled labour positions in our community,” he said.
Harrison also said the government plans to provide a substantial amount of money this year for the development of a new long-term care facility to serve both the city and the RM of Meadow Lake.
“It will be a 72-bed facility and funding for that project will move ahead rapidly,” Harrison said. “We’re excited to be moving forward on this.”
With an estimated price of close to $30 million, 80 per cent of the cost for the new facility will be funded by the province while the remaining portion will be the responsibility of the city and the RM.