Saskatoon mayoral candidate Rob Norris speaks in Saskatoon on Aug. 28, 2020. (Shawn Churchill/CTV Saskatoon)

Saskatoon mayoral candidate Rob Norris is pledging to drop annual property taxes to one per cent if elected in the Nov. 9 municipal election, he announced Wednesday.

In order help to do that, Norris is suggesting a city-wide hiring freeze excluding police, fire and protective services.

That measure would save $7.2 million annually, he said.

Norris says he would also cut the mayor salary by 10 per cent, about $15,000, and reduce the mayor office communications budget by 10 per cent, about $11,000 annually.

In addition, he would lower the salary of the chief of staff/executive assistant to the mayor by 10 per cent, saving around $9,500 annually.

“In order to drop property taxes and provide some real relief to working families in Saskatoon, I have absolutely no problem offering these measures,” he said in a news release.

Cutting budgets means cutting services: Clark

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, incumbent Mayor Charlie Clark said Saskatoon has a long history of candidates promising no property tax increases at election time and not being able to deliver when facing budget deliberations.

“If it was clear how to do it, I would love to bring in a zero per cent property tax increase, there’s no question,” Clark said.

“The reality becomes, what are you prepared to cut to do that? What services are you going to take away in order to do that?”

Clark noted how Saskatoon is a growing city and demands for policing, firefighting and infrastructure are also increasing. Rather than drawing a hard line on property tax increases, Clark said the city has been working to find efficient ways to run city operations, ensuring quality services are provided all while keeping affordability in mind for taxpayers.

“My goal will be to bring in budgets that maximize the value of tax dollars, continue to drive that property tax increase down, continue to make sure our business taxes are competitive and build affordability for families,” Clark said.

Mayoral candidate Cary Tarasoff questioned Norris’ plan to reduce the 2021 tax increase from where it stands at 3.54 per cent down to one per cent, noting how the current city council has already approved the 2021 budget.

“Would Rob Norris somehow stop this from happening? Perhaps Rob Norris should be clearer that he still believes that the City of Saskatoon under his leadership will require at least a one per cent tax increase each year,” he wrote in a statement to CTV Saskatoon.

Tarasoff questioned Norris’ plan for a hiring freeze, predicting a shortage of temporary employees for snow-removal season, for staff currently not on the payroll. Tarasoff said he wants more clarity from Norris on his plans to trim the 2021 tax increase.

Don Atchison said he’s sticking with his plan for no property tax increase in 2021.