Wednesday, 19 October 2016 14:12

Mayor offers his final words on debt and taxes

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By reducing the health-care levy at the last regular council meeting, it emphasized two important subjects in this election, debt and taxes.
The Cypress Regional Hospital opened in 2007 and we’ve all likely utilized it personally or have a family member or friend who has. To pay our share of the costs, the city borrowed $12 million and paid it off this year, resulting in a significant tax decrease for residential and commercial properties as the hospital levy is reduced by 65 per cent. 
For those candidates suggesting the city needs a debt repayment plan, this is a great example of how the city repays every single dollar of debt. 
Funds are borrowed for 5, 10 or 20 years depending on the asset and then repaid at locked in, guaranteed rates. By utilizing debt this way, the residents who use the hospital, drink the water, throw away garbage, go to events at the iplex or drive on our roads are the ones that pay for them.
It is completely fair that candidates in this election proclaim debt is too high, if they identify the items they would have cut to save money for the taxpayers. What credibility do they have when they criticize debt without stating what they would do differently? Worse yet, some single out property development they hope is controversial, even though it has been clearly communicated that these projects provide significant taxpayer savings, grow city revenues and cost the taxpayer nothing.
I am also bewildered that low taxes is one of the most obvious economic advantages we have in this city and yet there are candidates campaigning on just the opposite. That isn’t “city hall propaganda” as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and other cities have verified it.
If you look at the table, the two cities of comparable size collect almost $7 million more in taxes than Swift Current does to run their communities with a similar scale of services. Even Estevan, at two thirds our size collects more taxes than we do. We can all see taxes per capita are not even close.
Based on simple math and not coffee row banter, candidates suggesting Swift Current is unaffordable or becoming unaffordable are totally contradicting the facts. Rather than candidates suggesting taxes are a problem for those living on a fixed income, Swift Current should actually be a destination for folks living on a fixed income because there is no city in Saskatchewan more affordable to live in. The numbers don’t lie, unfortunately people do.
I don’t understand why those who want to represent our city would want to worry residents or scare away those who may consider living or investing here. To state our taxes are anything but an advantage compared to living anywhere else is simply false and they either haven’t done their homework or the misrepresentation is intentional.
Has council asked our citizens to pay more in recent years? There is no question. For starters, councils have been playing catch up and made significant investments in infrastructure and increased services like public transit that not only our community demands, but to ensure we can continue to attract people to live and invest here, rather than going somewhere else. 
Secondly, as power utility profits no longer subsidize operations, residents can be assured that taxes will remain the lowest while reducing our dependency on debt for infrastructure investments. Nobody likes paying more, but financially our city is in an enviable position.
Does Swift Current have a tax problem? It’s pretty clear we don’t and it is regrettable that candidates once again put their election ambitions ahead of the positive message we should be sharing about our community. 
Jerrod Schafer, Mayor of Swift Current

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