Municipalities across the province will receive $10 million more in revenue-sharing funding this year despite a looming austerity budget, according to Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.
Speaking at the 114th annual Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) conference in Saskatoon March 13, Moe said the new formula, negotiated between the provincial government and municipal officials over the past two years, resulted in an allocation of $250 million this year to communities. The new formula will see municipalities receive 3/4 of a point of the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) revenue from the previous two fiscal years.
Moe said this amounts to a 4% increase in municipal revenue-sharing over last year.
He added this hike is significant given the “tight” provincial budget slated to be unveiled in the Legislature next week. Despite economic headwinds, Moe said the province is experiencing continued growth, and municipal funding will fuel that expansion.
“The funding will be provided within the confines of a balanced budget that will strike the right balance between continued investment and fiscal restraint,” said Moe, adding the revenue-sharing formula provides transparency and predictability for both municipal and provincial governments.
“The increased revenue-sharing is a practical demonstration of the provincial government’s commitment to municipalities across Saskatchewan,” said Moe.
Moe said grant applications from municipalities and other eligible organizations under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program are now being accepted by the province for initial consideration. The intake period runs from March 15 to April 30, 2019.
“Strategic infrastructure investments are key to improving our citizens’ quality of life and positioning our communities for growth,” said Moe. “Infrastructure funding can also go further when groups work together, which is why I challenge community leaders to work together and consider submitting projects that can serve a region and its people.”
The Premier announced the province is committing $5 million to the Saskatchewan Conservation and Development Association for effective surface water drainage projects.
“We need effective water management solutions in our province,” said Moe. “Right now we have a number of very good projects. There are 96 conservation and development associations that are in place and they work well.
“But the reality is we need hundreds of these of these organizations. We are providing a $5 million grant to specifically increase the number of conservation and development associations to expand and improve water management systems across the province.”
Moe said recent amendments to the provincial Trespass to Property Act will bring fairness for rural landowners. The changes now require hunters, snowmobilers and others to get permission to venture onto rural properties.
“These amendments will provide a better balance of the rights of rural landowners and the general public,” said Moe. “They afford the same rights to rural landowners that are currently being provided to their urban counterparts.”
The Premier unveiled an “Innovation Challenge” that will award a $10,000 prize for the successful development of a technological solution, such as a phone app, to allow people to conveniently obtain permission from rural property owners.
Moe said the provincial government is investing in improved cellular and internet coverage through SaskTel; a new ten-year agreement with STARS air ambulance; more funding for rural pest control; increased support for crop insurance; continued investment in highways; and more money for health care facilities, physicians and nurses.