That’s the tagline the City of Regina has chosen to articulate its philosophy with respect to the 2014-15 budget. To take advantage of the “many opportunities that lie before us”, Mayor Michael Fougere noted in a press release, council will consider a seven per cent tax increase at a special budget meeting on Feb. 24 at City Hall at 5:30 p.m.
The seven per cent hike includes a general tax increase of six per cent plus a special one per cent tax to put a dent in the estimated backlog of $261 million in much needed repairs to the residential road network that were identified in a city report in November. The tax increase, says Fougere, will help the city “[meet] the needs of our growing community by investing in new and existing infrastructure that supports growth.”
That’s nice, I guess. But the type of growth that’s being supported is the same type of growth that’s been occurring since the 1950s — namely, low density, vehicle dependent and suburban. In fact, in the Leader-Post on Saturday, Stu Niebergall of the Regina & Region Home Builders Association had another op-ed where he drew a direct link between sustainable urban planning practices to boost density and reduce sprawl and housing affordability.
Our municipal policy-makers and City Council must always be cognizant of and working toward the objective of ensuring that the City of Regina continues to grow so that our citizens have a diversity of real housing options, in the neighbourhoods that best fit their lifestyle and choices. There is no place for restrictive land policies in achieving this outcome.
Left unexamined in Niebergall’s affordability equation is the cost to provide city services in all these new neighbourhoods. Contrary to what developers maintain, growth does not pay for growth. Development fees may pay for the initial installation of basic infrastructure in new neighbourhoods, but after that the city’s on the hook for providing services and looking after repairs and upgrades in subsequent years.
Seven per cent is the cost this year — and we’ll be facing increases of this scale for many years to come, I suspect, because even now we’re just scratching the surface of our infrastructure deficit.
If anyone wishes to appear before council to make a presentation on the budget they have until Feb. 19 to file a written submission at the City Clerk’s office.