Surplus Budget in Saskatchewan Despite Recession

While most other provinces in Canada are projecting deficits, the Saskatchewan economy has given us a budget surplus with tax cuts and money for roads, schools and hospitals. For home owners in Saskatchewan this also means a decrease in property taxes that means more money in Saskatoon home owners pockets…but less than Regina home owners.

The average household in Saskatoon will save $100/year whereas home owners in Katepwa (rural resort community) could save up to $1333.

The Sask Party government boasts that the $103 million cut to education portion of property taxes is the largest in Saskatchewan’s history. This is also long overdue as the government currently funds about 51% of education costs for K-12 schools and property owners have been paying for the rest. Residents and business owners have long complained that high property taxes are a burden and are preventing our competitiveness. This change would make the Saskatchewan government pay for about 63% of education funding. It is projected that our surplus will be approximately $425 million for 2009/2010 while keeping about $1.1 billion in a rainy day fund.

At least we are cautiously optimistic still and are aware that the economy in Saskatchewan is not immune to what is happening in the rest of the world. In past years it was oil and gas revenues that helped us out but with oil prices in Canada and worldwide being so low this year compared to last it is actually potash that is bringing in the money now. Potash is a pink mineral used to make fertilizer and the revenue of it is forecast to be $1.9 billion in 2009/2010 which is an increase of almost $430 million from last year. These numbers are dependent on the demand for potash of course and would change if potash were to go down like oil did so we know we are vulnerable to the rest of the world’s markets but we also know the rest of the world needs to eat.

While Saskatchewan’s economy is flourishing, others are not faring well at all. The New Brunswick government is going close to $1 billion in the red and had to cut 700 civil service jobs and had to cut programs. Ontario’s budget is expected to show a deficit of around $18 billion over 2 years. Even our energy rich neighbour, Alberta, is expected to see their first deficit in 15 years.

Saskatchewan will bump up its funding to schools by $241 million to $990 million this year. We are also going to get a boost in schools, roads and hospitals. As a Saskatchewan resident for many years I say halleluiah to the roads!! The province is also putting $1 billion toward capital funding for infrastructure on top of the $1 billion in last year’s budget and another half a billion announced in February. This spending also includes the $100 million for a new children’s hospital in Saskatoon as part of a 2-year, $200 million commitment.

Money is also being given out to help with some of the on going problems that we have been seeing such as improving the child welfare system (nearly $25 million towards this including $9.2 million to address the overcrowding issue). This comes after the announcement last month by Saskatchewan’s children’s advocate released a scathing report that Saskatoon foster homes are more overcrowded than anywhere else in the country.

Farmers and ranchers will also see more money during tough times with money going towards aid programs such as crop insurance.

But, students beware as the tuition freeze from 2005 is coming to an end, but the budget is providing $23.5 million to help universities limit cost increases to an average of 3%.

Kari Calder
Saskatoon Real Estate Agent
Century 21 Conexus Realty Ltd.

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