City Council looking to change strategy away from debt financing to fund operations
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"We need to get better at being less reliant on borrowing and to be better at funding things out of our operations in that particular tax year."
Councillor Denis Perrault highlighted that at the current taxation level, Swift Current residents are getting an impressive array of services ranging from a professional Fire Department, RCMP, parkway, parks, facilities, bus service, 80 kilometres of roads, snow removal, plus other infrastructure.
"Our residents are getting great value, great services, in a great, growing and vibrant city, and we're going to continue to enjoy these services for a fair and affordable price, long into our future, even with the changes that we're talking about today."
"Our Council sat together and we set a strategy that we were not going to rely on the Light and Power dividend for operations any more, but rather use it for capital projects like our exciting Integrated Facility, and I'm very hopeful we're going to be seeing development on it in the coming years."
Councillor George Bowditch felt that the City needed to have a stronger plan for the future, and better position the community for growth.
"You've got to plan for the future. We've got to do it in a responsible way. And one of the ways that we have to do it is to reduce our reliance on debt to fund a lot of these things. Our Light and Power should be used for that."
Councillor Pat Friesen also expressed that she was not concerned with the city's level of debt, bur rather the impact high levels of debt and low taxes would have on long term loan repayments.
"It could become quite a burden if you continue to accumulate debt, you have to pay the interest on that debt, and it could become a problem in the years to come."
She noted that high levels of debt repayment interest would take away from their ability to pay for infrastructure and building better facilities. Instead, the city should kept debt at a reasonable level, and better positioned for growth and replacing infrastructure in the future.
Councillor Ron Toles agreed that Council needs to change the way the city operates. As one of two first-term council members, Toles has a better appreciation of the budgeting and financing of the city than he did before joining council.
"My feeling of debt now is not nearly as frightening as it was maybe before I became more knowledgeable about this," he said.
Toles appreciated the document's goal of enhancing the city's ability to gain and maintain a competitive advantage over other communities.
"I think we need to change the way we've done things in the past. If we don't change, we continue to do things the way we are, debt is going to continue to grow. It has to. Or, things have to stop growing. We either have to stop growing or we have to stop borrowing, and I don't see good in either one of those. So if we don't make that change now, we're going to continue to add to our debt. I don't see how we can stop growing and building. We're a growing community, a vibrant community."
"I for one am proud to be a part of a council that's willing to say we need to change. The time to change is now and we can't continue to go the way we're going."
Mayor Schafer said all council members are hoping to hear directly from municipal taxpayers on the matter in order to have an open discussion on how to proceed as they head into a new city budget year.
"One of the things that this discussion, and that we want to have resonating out in the community is: a) getting to a point were our community knows that the reason why our debt is at a certain level is because we enjoy this incredible tax situation. And one of the things that we're looking at is simply increasing the amount of tax revenue to get us comparable."
"We're not even talking about, and this report doesn't mention matching other communities, it's simply talking about ending the reliance of this particular subsidy. That would eliminate a significant amount of debt that we have accumulated."
"We are in a very enviable position. We've got a very strong balance sheet. We're in very good shape. And I think this is a great discussion to have moving forward."