Saskatoon homeowners to start paying monthly bills for garbage pickup by early 2020

Saskatoon homeowners to start paying monthly bills for garbage pickup by early 2020
Council votes to increase salaries to offset elimination of federal income tax exemption
The decision today allows us to at least tell people what some of the next steps area going to be with some clarity, so Im pleased about that, Coun. Mairin Loewen said.

This is an important step forward for our City on our journey toward trying to achieve 70 per cent waste diversion, so we are pleased with Councils decision, Dan Willems, acting general manager of corporate performance, said in a news release.

City administration suggested the introduction of green bin organics collection would dramatically increase waste diversion rates, with about 58 per cent of current black bin contents able to be placed in the green bins — including food waste and yard clippings.

Under the new system, people will select the size of waste bin theyd like to receive and pay according to size.

The city is still deciding the price, but cost estimates are $6 per month for a small bin, $8 for the medium bin and $11 for the largest bin.

The new waste program is part of the citys effort to save money in the long run and divert waste from the landfill, so the city doesnt have to pay for a new one.

"There are a lot of people in the community who arent using their current black bins to capacity and we see that through the data we have at the city, Loewen said.

The City of Saskatoon displays examples of different garbage bin sizes that could be implemented under a new utility program, with the current bin displayed on the right. (Chris Vandenbreekel/650 CKOM)

Most black bins are only 40 per cent full. So what that tells us is, a lot of people would be happy to hav amslaler bin and I am hearing support for that concept.

Saskatoon ranks near the bottom among Canadian cities with only 23 per cent of waste being diverted away from the landfill in 2017. The city has a goal to increase that rate to 70 per cent by 2023.

Loewen said she wanted the organics to be funded the same way waste will be paid for – through a monthly utility.

“This was a matter of either funding garbage through a utility model or facing a very substantial property tax increase to achieve that same level of service.”

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Big changes are coming to the way Saskatoon homeowners pay for curbside waste collection, after city council narrowly approved a garbage utility program Monday afternoon.

Saskatoon city council voted to increase mayor and council pay in 2019 as the elimination of a federal personal income tax exemption for elected officials takes effect Jan. 1.

The salaries of Saskatoon’s mayor and council will increase in 2019 to offset the elimination of a federal personal income tax exemption that will no longer be available to elected officials as of Jan. 1.

After months of debate, councillors voted 6-5 in favour of a plan to establish a pay-as-you-throw garbage utility, meaning homeowners will pay monthly fees depending on the size of their garbage bin.

Members of council — minus Coun. Zach Jeffries and Coun. Darren Hill, who were not present — unanimously gave final approval to the salary increase in front of a virtually empty public gallery. The vote was to come after a public hearing, but no speakers attended.

Using property taxes to pay for organics goes against city administrations recommendation of a unified utility, in which user fees would be used for both garbage and organics.

The method of funding the increases has not yet been finalized. A vote on a recommendation from the administration to draw down on a contingency fund next year was deferred to the 2019 budget talks.

Iwanchuk put forward a motion to defer a decision on funding a residential organics program until after the city has a plan to deal with commercial and multi-unit organic waste.

The increases are meant to preserve the level of take-home pay for members of council at or near its current levels. It’s meant to act as a counter to the effect of the elimination of a tax credit that will affect one-third of the salary of officials elected in a province, territory or incorporated municipality, such as Saskatoon.

The federal government approved the elimination of the exemption, which is specific to elected officials, in 2017. The move is expected to capture an additional $30 million in personal income tax revenue for the federal government.

After the meeting, Mayor Charlie Clark said the issue had been flagged by the Saskatchewan Municipal Review Commission for a couple of years. He explained that the long-standing principle of tying the city’s salary to a provincial cabinet minister’s salary and councillors’ salaries to the mayor’s pay comes out of a 1980 commission report.

Currently, Saskatoon’s mayor, under the city’s council remuneration policy approved in 2005, is paid the equivalent of 85 per cent of a provincial cabinet minister’s salary. A city councillor makes the equivalent of 46 per cent of the mayor’s annual salary. In real terms, in 2018 a Saskatchewan cabinet minister will have earned $145,152; Clark will earn $123,379 and city councillors will earn $56,374.

The only other option would have been a very substantial property increase to achieve that same level of service, Loewen said.

Clark explained the number was set at 85 per cent because a mayor’s salary was subject to that tax exemption.

Council also approved the funding model for its curbside organics collection, opting to pay for it through property taxes.

“It’s always a challenge dealing with anything to do with council pay. But by following that principle, you’re setting something that’s not so much about the individuals here now, but a principle for how council should be paid through that independent advice,” he said.

Saskatoon homeowners will start paying a user fee to take out the trash come 2020 after a decision from city council.

To offset the earnings loss that would have resulted from losing the federal tax exemption, the administration recommended council alter the compensation structure so that the mayor is paid the equivalent of a provincial cabinet minister and councillors are paid 46 per cent of that. The aim is to preserve the after-tax earnings of the mayor and council at a similar level next year.

The adjustment will mean the city’s budget expense for council pay will increase by about $122,000 in 2019. One of the options council faced was funding the additional cost through a 0.05 per cent property tax increase. Another possibility was reducing other council expenses.