The recently released 2023-24 Saskatchewan provincial budget is getting mixed reviews from SUMA (Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association).
Despite the projected $1 billion surplus, the SUMA said that they were disappointed that the provincial government would be continuing to impose the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) on municipal construction projects.
“As costs continue to rise due to inflation, the percentage of Municipal Revenue Sharing that we return to the province in the form of PST on our municipal construction projects also continues to increase,” SUMA President Randy Goulden (Councillor-Yorkton,SK) said. “We could do so much more in our communities if the funding stayed in our municipalities.”
According to data collected by SUMA, medium-sized cities in Saskatchewan returned 24-39% of their total Municipal Revenue Sharing grant back to the province in the form of PST on construction projects in 2021. This means that a considerable amount of the funding that municipalities received from the government will be diverted back to the province, reducing the effectiveness of the investment.
The application of PST on municipal construction projects has been a longstanding issue for SUMA, who argue that it creates a financial burden for municipalities and impedes their ability to carry out infrastructure projects.
On the flip-side SUMA was pleased with the provincial investment of $89.4 million for the transportation system in northern Saskatchewan, which includes building, operating, and maintenance costs. An additional $6 million has been allocated for the preservation and maintenance of northern roads, which will support the province's forestry industry and contribute to economic development in northern communities.
Goulden said that while healthcare is a provincial responsibility, hospitals, health centers, and long-term care homes are located in Saskatchewan's communities and have a direct impact on the well-being of residents.
The Municipal organization has been advocating for improved access to healthcare, particularly in smaller communities. SUMA welcomed the increased funding, with a focus on the implementation of 250 full-time positions and an enhancement of part-time positions in Saskatchewan's towns and villages.
“No one should have to worry about where the closest ambulance is or how long it will take to access basic health care,” Goulden said in a press release. “The investment will help to reduce service interruptions in our communities.”
Overall, SUMA acknowledges the province’s effort to improve the lives of Saskatchewan’s residents, particularly through increased funding for infrastructure and health services.