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Saskatoon residents not likely to feel impact of civic service review

By in News
Early in the civic service review, cuts to public transit were on the chopping block
After months of discussion and debate, Saskatoon’s first civic service review in decades has concluded. Residents can expect to see few, if any, changes.

“There will be some minor ways in which citizens will be directly affected but many of the changes that we had discussed throughout this process are internal,” said city councillor Mairin Loewen, who was elected to represent Ward 7 in a by-election early 2011.

Loewen mentioned a small reduction in staff hours at City Hall as one example of how the city will be cutting costs.

“There will be many of these changes that won’t be apparent to the public at all,” she said.

The more controversial changes council discussed, including cutting bus service off at 10 p.m. and eliminating some of the lower-traffic routes, were not approved.

“There was, I would say, a fairly strong message from council that we aren’t interested in any of those options at this time,” Loewen said.

The transit changes were among the proposals that could have affected students the most, according to Loewen. She cited late library hours and evening classes as reasons students would have been disproportionately affected by a cut in transit hours.

One of the changes some citizens will notice was a slight decrease in the city’s contribution to the low-income bus pass program. It will lead to each recipient paying $5 more for his or her pass.

But even the changes that were approved will have to wait for city council to conclude its budget review, which takes place in December. This service review was non-binding and was, Loewen explained, undertaken “just to examine if there were any areas within the city where we needed to review our activities.”

While the review is not currently a habitual practice for council, Loewen said she felt it was important and that she expects it to become “a regular event,” though not necessarily an annual one.

“This was a move that was proposed by the late councillor [Maurice Neault, in Ward 3] that we should undertake a review of our services,” said Loewen. “It wasn’t prompted to meet a specific target, we weren’t looking to cut a certain amount of money from the budget. It wasn’t motivated by a budget crunch.

“I think there is some value to reviewing what the city is doing and to having a discussion outside of the budget cycle about evaluating our programs and services and whether we can make improvements, find efficiencies or whether we need to make cuts.”

photo: Robbie Davis

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