Saskatoon’s city-wide collection of organic waste from single-family homes is slated to begin in 2023 after receiving city council approval on Monday.
Councillors voted 7-4 in favour of a “moderate phase-in” of curbside pickup of food and yard waste that was recommended by city administration.
Curbside organics collection was initially expected to begin in 2020 after months of debate last year.
“This council’s committed to diverting more waste, not only because it’s the right thing to do environmentally, but there is a financial cost to doing nothing and we have to take that into account,” Coun. Zach Jeffries said.
With the revised plan, city administration said there would be a one per cent increase in property taxes in 2020, 2021 and 2022, followed by a 0.9 per cent increase in 2023.
Beginning in 2024, budgetary increases would be limited to growth, inflation and any changes to the service offered, according to a city report.
The approved regime was one that “in a fiscally responsible way, strikes that balance,” Jeffries said.
A so-called “aggressive” phase-in would have seen the curbside organics program begin two years earlier, but with higher, more immediate impacts on the mill rate.
The failed long-term introduction would have meant organics collection beginning in 2027 with 0.5 per cent annual increases over a longer period of time. Council also rejected a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood phase-in approach.
“I understand that we’re trying to strike a balance here between delivering the service as quickly as possible and softening the financial impact to residents,” said Coun. Mairin Loewen, whose first choice was the aggressive model.
She also noted the city has been paying for waste management through reserve funds. The tax increases would go toward introducing the program while addressing the shortfall.
“That’s not just the cost of a new program, it’s actually the cost of trying to rectify this budget issue that we’ve had for many years,” Loewen said.
In January, councillors forged ahead with an organics collection program funded by property taxes on a phased-in basis, rather than a single increase in one year.
On Monday, councillors also sought a report on whether a one-time boost to federal gas tax funding could lower the impact on taxpayers.
Saskatoon is falling far short of a target to divert 70 per cent of waste from the landfill by 2023.
Curbside organics collection is estimated to divert another 13 per cent of waste, but the target remains “unlikely,” according to city staff’s report.