Council approves funding from COVID-19 Recovery Reserve for harm reduction

Regina city council has decided to take $500,000 from the $14 million COVID-19 Recovery Reserve in order to help with harm reduction and social determinant initiatives.

Ward 3 Councillor Andrew Stevens made put forward the motion on Wednesday, during the city’s first day of 2021 General and Utility Operating Budget and 2021-2025 General and Utility Capital Plan discussions.

Stevens said although businesses deserve and have received support from the Recovery Reserve, harm reduction and addictions are COVID-related as well.

Administration said it would result in a mill rate increase in the following years, because the reserve is a one time thing and the provincial and federal budgets are still unknown.

Stevens said he can’t in good conscience say to his voters that it’s in someone else’s hands, and wanted to go ahead with it.

Ten delegates also presented to council on Wednesday, speaking about a number of items relating to the proposed budget.

Several delegates spoke about a desire to expand the Wascana Pool rebuild to allow for a 50 metre pool instead of the proposed 25 metres.

Others spoke about a need for more commitments to sustainability and social issues.

City administration is recommending a 2.34 per cent mill rate increase in 2021 for all programs and services. That’s around a $4.13 monthly property tax increase for the average homeowner.

The proposed mill rate increase is meant to support a 1.39 per cent increase for Regina Police Services. It would fund eight additional police positions, and three civilian positions.

The mill rate increase is also to cover the dedicated mill rates of 0.45 per cent for Mosaic Stadium and 0.5 per cent for the Recreation Infrastructure Program.

Ward 6 Councillor Daniel LeBlanc put forward a motion to reduce the money allocated to attracting Events, Conventions and Tradeshows from $325,000 to $100,000. That motion was defeated as some councillors worried about not having the money to attract events when the pandemic ends.

Ward 7 Councillor Terina Shaw made motion to remove a one time payment of $200,000 earmarked for Economic Development Regina to instead be used for sports programming for people with disabilities. That motion was also defeated as council worried about economic recovery for the city.

Shaw later made a motion to take $200,000 from the Community Investment Reserve and put it towards sports programming for people with disabilities. Council decided to support that motion.

Ward 8 Councillor Shanon Zachidniak put forward an amendment to remove $339,000 meant for city plowing of all sidewalks adjacent to transit stops from the budget. Zachidniak said a discussion surrounding a bylaw mandating residents clean their sidewalks will happen later this year and felt the money should not be committed if there is a chance it could change later on.

Stevens said some council members worked hard to get the money allocated to it, adding it is about accessibility and respecting transit users. Stevens said homeowners can’t be relied on to clear these spots for transit riders. The amendment was defeated 1-10.

Delegates were also expected to speak about the proposed police budget, but council instead decided to postpone that discussion to Thursday, in order to tackle the issue head on.

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