Wednesday, 28 September 2016 15:30

Addressing the Swift Current golf course situation...

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I am yet to find a businessperson who wouldn’t be interested in upgrading a building he or she owned to earn higher revenues.
The downside of carrying a little more debt for the leasehold improvements is offset by collecting higher rent revenue resulting in an asset of higher value paid for by another party. That’s pretty good business.
The City currently has two agreements like that. In the Springs Commercial area, it was critical for the city to extend the Battleford Trail, however it didn’t own the land. The city made an agreement with landowners to develop the land west of the Swift Current Mall where the landowners would pay an interest rate premium to the city (profit) for the financing, and must either repay the development costs when land is sold or the city has the right to take the land, which has a higher value than the costs of development. 
As per the agreement, the city has received repayment when land has sold. 
One of the major benefits is the landowners paid for the cost of extending Battleford trail, a major thoroughfare, not the taxpayers. Furthermore, by extending that roadway, it alleviated pressure on the North Service road, extending its life and saving the taxpayers money there as well.
Taxpayers have been misled that this is bad deal because it’s an agreement with private landowners.
 In fact, this deal has saved taxpayers millions of dollars in road construction costs alone, while ensuring there is land available for development (which eventually leads to taxation revenue), returns a small interest rate profit and is secured by the value of the land.
Does it add to our debt? For the short term it does, however it is providing our city with important assets that benefit the taxpayer at no cost to them. As a taxpayer, that sounds okay to me.
In the agreement with Elmwood, the city funded the renovation of a recreation facility owned by the city (taxpayers) and created a new housing subdivision.
Not only will the development costs be repaid entirely by property sales and the golf club, it will also grow property tax revenue as new homes are built. 
Finally, because Elmwood operates independently, it eliminates the taxpayer from funding expenses such as maintenance equipment or bridges like we do at Chinook.
Not to discount the many community groups, volunteers and businesses that make great contributions to our facilities, but this is likely the best deal the city has ever had to build or renovate a recreation facility, as there isn’t one park, arena, pool or golf course that hasn’t been mostly or entirely funded by the taxpayer.
As a comparison, Chinook Golf Course was originally built and then expanded at 100 per cent cost to the taxpayer. I question why candidates in this election would support expenditures that cost the taxpayer and oppose the Elmwood agreement which has no cost to the taxpayer and will grow revenues.
Think about all the positive change we’ve seen in our community and where we would be if we didn’t think outside the box to keep moving forward. I understand that strategic partnerships can cause confusion, especially when it means the city must carry additional debt. 
However, if you look at them from a simple business perspective, it’s easy to see these are partnerships that are good for the taxpayer. In business, acquiring or upgrading assets at no cost to the asset owner is usually seen as a smart investment so why wouldn’t we do it for the city?
Other options would be to simply do nothing or wait for a time when the taxpayer is willing to incur the expense entirely. Personally, I would rather see the development happen today and have someone else pay for it.
Jerrod Schafer is Swift Current mayor.

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