03/18/2013 02:17 EDT | Updated 05/18/2013 05:12 EDT

Saskatchewan communities get $27M boost from provincial revenue sharing

REGINA - Saskatchewan municipalities will get more than $264 million from the province this year — an increase of about $27 million from last year.

The money, however, won't be shared the way Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) or the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) had wanted.

"There are some unique challenges in the north, so we took $2 million off the top for northern Saskatchewan," Government Relations Minister Jim Reiter said Monday.

"And on the remainder ... we essentially split the difference between the two groups."

That means half the money will distributed on a per-capita basis and half will be shared under a traditional formula that considers costs for specific services.

Urban municipalities will get $170 million — an increase of $18.1 million. Rural municipalities will receive $74.7 million — an increase of $5.9 million. Northern municipalities will share $19.7 million — an increase of $3.1 million.

There must be a review of the way money is shared after every federal census. The review started early last year after the 2011 census and was done with municipalities, but they couldn't reach a consensus on how to divvy up the cash.

The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association wanted the money shared on a per-capita basis because communities are growing and that's putting pressure on cities. The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities wanted to stick with the old approach. Reiter says there's some provincial interest in certain municipal services that have always been reflected in the formula.

"The other thing is that those particular industries ... for example oil, gas, potash and agriculture contribute significantly to provincial coffers and we recognize they're in rural Saskatchewan and they require services as well," he said.

Reiter said he didn't know if SUMA or SARM would be happy.

"But I would hope that both sides would look at this very much like, you know, while they didn't get everything they wanted, they got half of what they wanted," said Reiter.

"They're all reasonable folks. I would hope that they'd look at this and say you know what, this is a reasonable balance."