Swift Current municipal taxes will rise by an average of 8.95 per cent following Swift Current City Council's approval of the 2013 Municipal Budget on March 18.
The budget impact will result in an approximately $81 increased tax bill for the average homeowner, with Council approving a budget featuring $64.7 million in expenses and capital expenditures.
Swift Current's budget is highlighted by $5.6 million in spending on property development, $3.7 million on the annual streets and sidewalks program, plus $2.5 million to upgrade recreational facilities.
"We're putting a renewed emphasis on economic development and growth, and I think it's a great time to be in our community and I think we've got a lot to be proud of," Mayor Jerrod Schafer said on budget night March 18.
"In this particular budget we don't have a lot of the real exciting great projects like we've seen in the past," he noted. "A lot of this is focussed on development, spending a significant amount of money acquiring land and preparing land to be sold in the future for residential, commercial, industrial, which is essential for growth.
The city will be acquiring additional land in the Saskatchewan Valley subdivision to accommodate further growth, and much of the surface improvements at the Highland subdivision will be completed.
In his budget address, Schafer pointed to the growth which has already been experienced over the past year. Swift Current enjoyed a record year with $83.6 million in building permits issued, a 17 per cent increase from the previous record year in 2007. Swift Current has now issued in excess of $154 million in building permits over the past three years. During 2012, the city issued 53 single family residential building permits, a steep jump from the annual average of 27.5 over the past 15 years. There were also 55 residential lots sold during 2012, all which add up to positive growth for Swift Current.
"With the number of housing starts that we've had with new multi-family units, our population is growing and that's a trend," he said.
Admittedly, during the last census, there was some frustration in the population growth totals that were recorded.
"I'd rather be debating about not growing enough than not growing at all," Schafer said. "Our community is growing, the statistics show it from a construction perspective, from an investment perspective, and I think everywhere you go when you see the landscape of Swift Current, it's certainly changing. And I think that's a great thing. And I think it's time to acknowledge as a community that Swift Current is growing and we are on the right track. And we are taking advantage of the growth provincially. We've been fortunate for that. And we need to do all we can to make sure that we continue to grow going forward."
Susan Motkaluk, Chief Administrative Officer, commented during the budget presentation that a series of expenditures were being made to maintain service levels while striving for growth.
"We are moving full steam ahead, but we're doing this responsibly, sustainably and most important we're doing this together," Motkaluk said.
"There's an energy in the air. A feeling that this is our time. That if we're ready to invest in our collective future, a new and exciting prosperity is just around the corner."
She highlighted that the increased costs in the area of basic services will cost city taxpayers $4.16 per month. These basic services include costs associated with protective services, streets and transportation, along with parks, recreation and community programming. These areas are facing higher costing pressures as a result of increased prices for asphalt, fuel, electricity and water, plus wages and general inflation.
"We do believe that our policies and our plans have prepared us for the exciting opportunities on the horizon and the economic benefits that will follow," she said. "The 2013 tax adjustments helps us to put those policies and plans into action. The adjustment is a modest one and Swift Current will continue to be one of the least taxed communities in the province."
"This budget is a major opportunity towards growing our community."
The budget also boasts a series of enhancements through increased infrastructure investment, youth programming, all-weather track, downtown revitalization and beautification, and other improvements.
"We have certainly gone beyond the basics. We want to enhance our community, and we're doing this with a $2.57 per month increase," she noted.
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