© Scott Anderson
Swift Current Mayor Jerrod Schafer presented the 2013 Municipal Budget at the March 18 Swift Current City Council meeting.
Tim Marcus, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer, highlighted that the average homeowner would see an increase of about $81 a year, keeping Swift Current's municipal taxes low in comparison to other communities.
"Swift Current is certainly, and historically, below any of the other entities in the province."
Marcus presented an example based on a 1,500 square foot home, less than 10 years old. In Swift Current the home would have a municipal tax bill of $1,155, compared to $2,793 in Saskatoon and $3,265 in Regina. The estimated tax increases in 2013 in Swift Current on that property would be $103, with Saskatoon's increase estimated at $137, with a similar home in Regina projected to see a $148 tax increase.
Swift Current expects to collect approximately $9.8 million in tax revenues in 2013, while North Battleford collects approximately $15.6 million, and Yorkton takes in $19.5 million in tax revenues. This results in a total tax collected per resident rate of $644 in Swift Current, compared to $1,120 in North Battleford and $1,245 in Yorkton.
"We are a very affordable City, in fact we're the most affordable City in the province, bar none. Not only that, we're in good fiscal health. I know it's a concern to some that the city's acquired debt at a time when we are growing, for projects like water treatment plans, waste water treatment plants, iPlexs and hospitals and things like that. But the reality of it is by using debt, those facilities and services are used and paid for by residents that are actually utilizing the services...rather than this myth that sometimes exists that we can overtax people, create a slush fund, and pay cash for these things. That's not a strategy that works," Mayor Schafer said during his budget address.
With the budget making an investment in order to take advantage of future opportunity, he added that it captures the excitement which is already evident in the economic numbers which have been recorded over the past few years.
"I think it's time that we start being excited about the future of our community, about the prospects of it. I think our businesses are doing great. We've been fortunate they've invested greatly in our community. Our residents are doing the same."
"I love the extra efforts that we're making in terms of economic development. And anything that we can do to try and increase our tax base and help our businesses out is something that this council and this administration is going to be really aggressive with."
Council members were unanimous in support of the 2013 budget.
"This budget addresses I think a lot of the needs that we need to maintain what we have and to make sure that what we have continues to grow," Councillor George Bowditch
said in advance of Monday's budget vote.
"I really appreciate this budget in that there is something for everyone," commented Councillor Denis Perrault.
Councillor Pat Friesen participated in her first city budget and she commented there were many positives.
"I do strongly support growing and developing our city and the region and support this budget because it is an investment that will help us prepare and attract that growth and development. It also helps us meet the growing basic needs of our residents."
Councillor Ron Toles, who was also going through his first budget process, admitted he now has a different perspective of the budget process.
"Before the election I would go through every budget every year and I would look at things and I would say 'that's frivolous, that's nonsense, we don't need that'. And then to see it from the other side, to sit with the directors, to look at what was brought to us... It's easy to look at a pie chart and say that's too much."
"There are very few things in this now that I would say are non-essential...and the ones that I look that I say maybe not, are so minimal that they really are miniscule and there's really no sense really talking about them any more."
Councillor Gord Budd, who participated in his 10th budget, was happy to see a 30 per cent increase in spending on street rehabilitation, with a portion of those funds earmarked for potholes and road improvements. He was also happy to see a series of initiatives to help Swift Current both grow and thrive.
"No City or no municipality ever sits still. You either go forward or you go backwards. I think we're going forward at a good, reasonable pace."