Letter: Not impressed with budget and strategic plan brochures

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By now everyone has received a couple of glossy brochures full of nice pictures, graphs and pie charts from the City. One brochure concerned the Strategic Plan and the other promoting our recent Budget. I have had residents question why the City would spend thousands of dollars in printing and distribution of these items. If the City believed it was important to have the residents receive this information, why could they not have put a single page insert into our power bills that go out monthly. The same information could have been distributed for only the cost of a single piece of paper without the costly production and distribution costs. The thousands spent on this exercise could have been diverted to something more worthwhile like fixing some of our streets.

A couple of things stand out when one studies these documents. As usual there are the claims of low residential taxes when compared to others, but conveniently there are a few items not factored into how they derived the numbers.

1) There is a $100 hospital charge added to our property tax which is not included in their calculations. Other jurisdictions simply funded their share of the hospital out of existing funds, where we borrowed all our funds and then added the surcharge to our tax bill.

2) We have our own power utility that contributes $5 million yearly to our tax base that other cities do not have access to.

3) Our businesses pay a higher tax rate on their properties than virtually all other cities that are showing substantial growth in populations numbers. A recent study by the CFIB indicated Swift Current charges as much as 40 per cent more in business taxes than other high population growth centres. The more taxes we charge to our business sector the lower our residential tax can be, but this becomes a trade-off of business growth versus lower residential taxes.

Instead of using residential property tax numbers for comparisons with other jurisdictions, we should be using total spending per capita. That comparison would be less open to manipulation and give a true financial picture of our financial health as compared to others. That picture would be substantially less flattering. Our residents expect and deserve a whole lot more transparency and a whole lot less spin.

The Strategic Plan document indicates we can grow our City to 25,000 by 2025 because we have lower tax and power rates. Both of those statements are questionable. Firstly our business taxes are up to 40 per cent higher than some other jurisdictions and secondly our power rates are actually higher than those of our neighbors. Businesses tend to go to where they may have the best chance for success and a large part of their decision is based on their bottom line. In order to get even close to the projected population numbers we may have to look at being a little more business friendly. 

In order to have businesses relocate in Swift Current they need to know they will be coming to a city with a stable economy and have accommodations available for their staff. At present, with tax increases of 45 per cent in the past four years and a city with out of control debt and a council that seems not to be able to control its spending habits, the job of attracting new business seems daunting at best. In addition to having financial difficulties we now have no residential lots available for sale even if we could attract newcomers.

The budget document makes the assertion that we need to dream big and those dreams can become reality, but if those dreams are not based on reality they can soon become a nightmare.

Don Robinson - Swift Current

Geographic location: Swift Current

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Recent comments

  • Lawrence
    April 27, 2014 - 13:28

    You are so close to the solution it is scary. How about start turning out to City Council meetings to listen in on proceedings and seeing with your own eyes the processes and decisions made by our elected officials. That is what democracy is. Council is not our enemies, they were elected to made these decisions. When we don't agree with them, turn out and talk to them. A number of managers are at meetings, and would be more than willing to discuss and explain. It sure couldn't hurt.

    • Bart
      April 28, 2014 - 10:55

      Yeah, you know what you get when you talk to these people? Just what the mayor and the other bully on city council tell them to say. No hint of any individual thought process from any of them. Even when they privately admit that there are ideas that have no chance of happening (10K more people in 11 years) they will not stand up and speak out. That's not what we need to move this sity forward.

    • Lawrence
      April 28, 2014 - 13:54

      You are serious that you are just going to throw out allegations and complaints, and do nothing to address your concerns that are deep enough that you have said will force you to move out of the community? These guys are not the enemy. There is no conspiracy. Democracy only works when we make it work. Next council meeting is tonight, April 28.

    • Bart
      April 28, 2014 - 14:05

      LOL. You have no idea what I have done to raise my concerns and offer possible solutions, alternate ideas, cost cuts and research actual numbers. You're stretching on this one.

  • Stewy
    April 26, 2014 - 10:13

    We all need to start questioning these issues. We need to find out why there are "new jobs" being filled by friends of certain people. We need to know why large contracts are not being tendered. We need to ask why snow is only removed from streets north of the #1. Etc. etc. etc. I would hope that when people read these posts they will talk about it in their workplace and invite others to read them. This is the only way to tell the city that we do see whats happening and that we have had enough of this foolishness!! People in numbers can make the difference.

  • Jonesy
    April 26, 2014 - 00:08

    Yup, lots was spent on snow removal. We live where it snows. Yup, we needed a new fire truck. Fires happen that can kill. Yup, market square costs some dollars to operate. It garners more foot traffic to the downtown core than anything else in the past 20 years. Yup, the CAO can call her own shots. That's her job. After reading these comments, I'm more thankful than ever that we have the council that we have. A city run by John C, skeptic, Bart, stewy, and dan would be about as attractive as a tadpole covered in molasses. Like I've said, if you don't like it then run for council. If you disagree with it then apply for the CAO job. Good luck!

    • Bart
      April 28, 2014 - 10:49

      Yes, it would be completely terrible place to live with streets that aren't riddled with pot holes and ruts, sensible spending on things we need most not thinks a small minority want most, snow removal from all streets, not just a few of them, taxes that aren't skyrocketing and less debit. Yup, no place I'd want to live when my other choice is huge debt and huge tax increases for "things" the majority of people don't want or don't need.

    • dan
      April 29, 2014 - 20:28

      How about talking about "mayors grove"the monument for the s.c. mayors.A good purchase?How about the silverados making circles around the city with 2 employees per vehicle,,is this a good purchase?You mention a couple required expenses and say nothing about the waste.There will be no last laugh Jonesy,only losers.

  • John c
    April 25, 2014 - 00:13

    Someone needs to start questioning the right issues! Try looking at all the spending people like the CAO do, no questions asked. Or the job positions that just appear, and people being hired based on who they are friends with at city hall and not qualifications! How much did they spend on osnow removal this year? A lot! How much do they spend on market square every year? How much do they spend on decorating at city hall? Another custom made fire truck? Not to mention the raise that the mayor and council decided they needed! Their spending is ridiculous, out of control and the CAO seems to do what ever she wants. And good luck growing this city to 25k people. in the last 20 years it has only grown a couple thousand and honestly I live here partly because of the small city I don't want to live in big city! Hopefully someone's questions some of this!

    • Craig
      April 25, 2014 - 18:53

      Great idea! Why wait for someone else to do the asking? Pick up the phone or write a letter to city council and express your concern. That's how change is made, not waiting for someone else to do it.

  • Skeptic
    April 18, 2014 - 20:37

    People have to start telling government we are tired of them buying our own votes with tax funded ads! Swift Current may have had low taxes, but has found a way to hike taxes awful fast. 10,000 more people in a city of 15,000 is not realistic, especially with taxes sky rocketing. And all the tax payer funded flyers in the world won't hide that. Couldn't this money have found better uses? Or just been kept off the tax bill?

  • Bart
    April 18, 2014 - 19:07

    I love the argument that we need to keep raising taxes because other cities are raising taxes. It reminds me that we should all jump off the bridge because someone else did it. The fact of the matter is there is a boat load of tax money coming in already and if the spending was put under control we'd have plenty to put towards infrastructure WHERE IT IS MOSTLY NEEDED. They need to take care of what is here first, not second or third as it is now. I don't really care about the 25K people we will have here in a 100 years. A few more people need to crack open the budget here and in a few other cities if you need to see first hand how out of control this city council is.

  • Stewy
    April 18, 2014 - 13:07

    I must agree with Bart, I to deal with many people each business day and have yet to speak to one person that feels the city is on track with the debt and the out of hand spending habits. This notification as was already stated,could very simply been a slip of paper in with the city bill. Furthermore i dont feel it was necessary to even send anything out. If the city was truly acting in the best interests of the entire population of Swift, (and not just those north of the highway) then there should be no reason to attempt an explanation of its spending plans. They probably could have patched a few craters in our streets with the money spent on these useless flyers!!

  • Jonesy
    April 17, 2014 - 22:12

    Are you encountering these people as if we live in the 1940's? Nobody likes paying more, but get serious. Calling the efforts as tax grabs and wasting money is outright nonsense. We live in a new world with new demands and keeping up with those is critical, even if it costs more short term. I'm tired of our community underestimating itself, and council is correcting the course of the ship. Say what you want about the LOTS of people you encounter, but the truth is nobody ran against our mayor because they knew they didn't stand a chance, and the man being so eager to drag our community's leaders through the mud has been trying to get in for 14 years with no luck. Maybe there is a reason behind that. I know I'm able to connect the dots of why that is. If you done like it then let your name stand. All I can say us good luck!

    • dan
      April 29, 2014 - 20:50

      "A new world with new demands"sounds like a bob rae speech in the 1990s.Ontario now has a 265 billion dollar debt and has gone from a "have" province to a province collecting welfare.

  • Bart
    April 17, 2014 - 14:28

    I encounter a lot, and I mean A LOT of people day to day and I have yet to hear from a single one that is pleased with the direction of this city council. There is a silent majority, but it's not full of people happy about the tax grabs and the wasted money flowing here. Go ask a few members of city council who have admitted privately that the vast majority of calls they have fielded about the crazy taxes here and they will tell you what the majority thinks. Quite the opposite from "happy". For a city that is so PC we have spending more like the Liberals. It's not okay and that expensive flyer was not okay either. Not because we don't need to know what the latest tax grab is all about, but because there are less expensive ways to do it that don't insult the tax payer after dipping into his pocket for another 15 percent money grab.

  • Jonesy
    April 16, 2014 - 21:48

    Why would any business think its a good idea to spend pennies on a single sheet of paper that delivers a comprehensive budget that's 10s of millions of dollars? A budget of this magnitude should be properly promoted. Don't be fooled, the small voices opposing these decisions represent a small percentage of the voices of the community. The larger, silent percentage is glad council and the Mayor are forward thinking and implementing much needed changes to move this City out of its stagnant past. Finally, we are becoming a more attractive, family focused community. New schools, upgraded parks and recreation, updated amenities in the works, new rink, new hospital, new long term care, all of which attract new citizens. Job well done City of Swift Current! Please keep it up.

    • dan
      April 18, 2014 - 09:34

      There is no glossy book in Saskatoon as far as i am aware of promoting a budget many times larger than yours.I would like to add your property taxes are far from reasonable for such a small town,i pay about the same in Saskatoon as i did in S.C. when you figure in the hospital surcharge(the tax that is not a tax).Small voices as you call it will get louder once you try to manage such a huge debt for a small population,or people will just move away.