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Thursday, 21 December 2017 06:07

Swift Current ratepayers facing 13.14 per cent tax increase

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Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault (standing) presents the 2018 municipal budget at a council meeting, Dec. 18. Seated, from left, are councillors Bruce Deg and Ryan Plewis. Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault (standing) presents the 2018 municipal budget at a council meeting, Dec. 18. Seated, from left, are councillors Bruce Deg and Ryan Plewis.

The City of Swift Current’s 2018 municipal budget, which includes a 13.14 per cent tax increase, was approved unanimously by councillors at a regular council meeting, Dec. 18.

This double digit tax increase will come in the final year of the City's current five-year financial strategy, and the City's goal is to reduce municipal debt with $3.77 million in 2018.
Despite this increase and the tax increases that happened during the previous four years of the financial strategy, Mayor Denis Perrault felt the city's taxation level is lower than other communities in the province.
“As of today, I can assure all of our public, and all of our residents, that we do have the lowest residential taxes in the province across cities and across for businesses,” he said after the meeting. “We’re very, very competitive. We err on the side of the low end. That’s something we’ll continue to do, because people are looking for the best bang for their buck.”
He emphasized that council will continue to look for efficiencies when spending decisions are made and the City's staffing level will remain unchanged.
“Unfortunately we’ve got expenses that always will be increasing,” he said. “Things like asphalt and concrete, the cost of labour.”
He felt positive there will not be double digit tax increases in future budget years as the City wraps up the implementation of the new financial strategy.
“This will be the last year of this financial strategy and I anticipate our next two budgets to not see that type of an increase, provided we don’t see large changes in our provincial revenue,” he said.
A six per cent portion of the 13.14 per cent tax increase in 2018 is related to the City's ongoing implementation of the financial strategy. The goal of the strategy is to only use the Light and Power dividend for capital spending and to reduce the use of debt financing for capital projects, but this approach requires annual tax increases to fund general operations.
Another key reason for the large tax increase in 2018 is the need to cover a shortfall of $1.12 million on the City's operating budget.
The main reason for this shortfall is a reduction of $875,000 in grants in lieu funding from the provincial government. The slowdown of the Saskatchewan economy and a decrease in provincial PST revenue means the City of Swift Current will receive $288,000 less in revenue sharing. A 5.47 per cent portion of the 2018 tax increase is therefore due to reduced provincial revenue.
The City will collect $40,000 less in fees to house provincial prisoners locally for court appearances, because many of these appearances now take place through modern video-link technology.
The 2018 tax increase therefore includes a 0.25 per cent portion to make up the loss of policing revenue.
The City will spend an additional $202,000 on operating costs during 2018. This expense will consist of an amount of $120,000 on computer software subscriptions and $82,000 on labour contracts to honour previously signed labour agreements.
The tax increase therefore includes a 1.27 per cent portion for operations and a 0.15 per cent portion for the capital budget.
According to the City the 13.14 per cent tax increase will amount to an approximate tax increase of $16.25 per month or $195 per year on a property assessed at a value of $280,000.
“I sincerely believe that we in the City of Swift Current offer the absolute best services for the price that you pay for your taxes,” Perrault said. “Taxes are quite frankly a fee for those services, and we try very hard to be able to deliver all of those things, from fire to police. We try to offer it from roads to sidewalks, from museums to art galleries, and parks and recreation, to an iPlex, to pools and all those things that make up our City budget.”
The City will have an operating budget of $61.8 million in 2018 and a capital budget of $14.3 million. Capital spending costs include $4.5 million on land development, $2.1 million on public works equipment replacement and other projects, $1.1 million on upgrades to various community services facilities, and $1.1 million on transportation infrastructure rehabilitation and maintenance.
Other capital project spending costs include $807,000 on Light and Power capital maintenance and replacement projects, $725,000 on solid waste projects, $737,000 on water works, $486,000 on Chinook Parkway projects, $450,000 on the detailed design of a new fire hall, $434,600 on computer and information technology upgrades, $282,000 on sewer works, $241,000 for storm sewer and drainage projects, and $230,000 to replace community services equipment.
Council's approval of the 2018 budget before the start of the new year is a significant change, and it was one of Perrault's goals when he was elected mayor to make this transition.
“The best part about this is we’ve got a budget that’s now delivered, and so on the first of January, when our fiscal calendar starts, they’ll know exactly what’s in their budget for each department moving forward,” he said.
One uncertainty that will remain for the City is the provincial budget and whether it will include any details that will have an impact on the municipal budget.
“We still got to be nimble that if there is a change made in March for the April 1 provincial budget, we’ll have to respond to that, and we as a council and admin will have to make that change, although we’re hopeful that we’ll see continued funding moving forward in all of our lines.”

Read 712 times Last modified on Thursday, 21 December 2017 07:34
Matthew Liebenberg