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OPINION: The F-Word Echoing Across Saskatchewan


SUMA President Randy Goulden Speaking to Delgeates at the SUMA AGM in Regina

In the 'Land of Living Skies', amidst the sprawling fields and bustling towns, there's a conversation echoing louder than ever – a conversation about that simple word starting with 'F'.


Funding.


From the smallest village to the largest city, municipal leaders in Saskatchewan find themselves grappling with a common challenge: how to secure the financial resources necessary to sustain and develop their communities. The recent Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) Convention held in Regina served as a poignant reminder of the pressing need for meaningful solutions to the funding crisis facing municipalities across the province.


Funding – it's not just a word; it's the lifeline that sustains the infrastructure, services, and quality of life for residents of every corner of Saskatchewan. As the province's municipalities confront the twin challenges of aging infrastructure and economic pressures, the cry for financial support reverberates louder than ever before. From sewer systems to wastewater treatment plants, from road maintenance to parks and recreation facilities, the need for funding permeates every aspect of municipal governance.


For municipal leaders, the task of addressing these pressing needs is nothing short of daunting. Decisions hang in the balance as they grapple with shrinking budgets and limited resources. The prospect of raising property taxes by double-digit looms large, yet many are hesitant to burden residents further, especially in communities where property tax increases have been held at zero for a decade or more.


As Saskatchewan prepares for a double election year – with municipal elections scheduled for November and a provincial election set for October – the stakes are higher than ever.


Municipal leaders are not just looking to their own residents for solutions; they're turning their gaze toward provincial counterparts, urging them to step up and address the funding crisis head-on.


During the SUMA Convention, the corridors buzzed with conversations about the upcoming elections and the urgent need for commitment from political leaders. Premier Scott Moe and Saskatchewan NDP Leader Carla Beck found themselves confronted with a simple yet profound question: are they willing to engage in a trilateral meeting with provincial/territorial governments, the federal government, and municipalities to address the fiscal framework for municipalities?


Surprisingly, both leaders answered in the affirmative, signaling a willingness to collaborate and find solutions to the funding challenges facing Saskatchewan's municipalities.


Yet, amid the rhetoric and promises, the question remains: is the current level of funding sufficient to meet the needs of Saskatchewan's municipalities? According to the Government of Saskatchewan, over $340 million will be distributed to municipalities in Municipal Revenue Sharing for the 2024-25 fiscal year. While this may seem like a substantial sum, it pales in comparison to the scale of the challenges facing municipalities across the province.


With 443 municipalities vying for limited resources and facing multimillion-dollar infrastructure projects, the $340 million allocated for Municipal Revenue Sharing is merely a drop in the bucket. Whether in Craven, La Ronge, or Regina, the cost of wastewater treatment facilities and road infrastructure projects remains exorbitant, stretching municipal budgets to their breaking point.


The need for increased funding is not just a matter of convenience; it's a matter of survival for Saskatchewan's municipalities. Without adequate financial support, communities risk falling into a downward spiral of decay and neglect, unable to meet the basic needs of their residents.


As Saskatchewan prepares to head to the polls, both provincially and municipally, the time for action is now. Municipal leaders are looking for more than just promises; they're looking for tangible commitments from political leaders to address the funding crisis head-on.


In the absence of a true partnership between all levels of government, municipalities in Saskatchewan will continue to face an uphill battle against dwindling resources and mounting infrastructure challenges. The consequences of inaction are clear – communities left to fend for themselves, struggling to survive in an increasingly uncertain future.


The F-word on the lips of delegates at the SUMA Convention isn't one to be taken lightly. It's a rallying cry for change, a call to action for political leaders to prioritize the needs of Saskatchewan's municipalities and ensure they have the resources they need to thrive.


The time for talk is over; now is the time for action.

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