Swift Current's 2019 budget includes a 2.9 per cent tax increase
The City of Swift Current's municipal budget for 2019 will require a 2.9 per cent tax increase to achieve expenditure goals in the operating and capital budgets.
Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault presented the 2019 municipal budget at the Dec. 17 council meeting.
The budget was approved unanimously by council members, who viewed the small tax increase as an indication that the City's plan to decrease a reliance on debt is working.
According to the City the tax impact on an average Swift Current home assessed at $280,000 will be an increase of $49 per year or $4.07 per month.
“We're trying to give the best services we can for a fair price to our citizens,” Mayor Perrault said after the meeting. “I believe this budget accomplishes that with a very modest change to taxation, and that was the challenge that we as a council put forth to our admin team and in my opinion they absolutely delivered it.”
The 2019 budget is the first year of the City's next five year capital plan. The total tax increase during the previous five-year period (2014-18) was more than 40 per cent, but Perrault noted those increases were part of the implementation of the City's financial strategy
“There was six years consecutive where what we were doing was a financial strategy,” he said. “We were trying to take our reliance away from debt. The goal really is to use our Light and Power dividend for capital projects in the year. In the past that Light and Power dividend was effectively subsidizing operations. That completed last year and that's to our advantage. That wasn't easy, and we did see some larger than usual tax changes over the last few years, but that's complete now.”
The City's operating budget for 2019 will be $63,497,980 and 1.3 per cent of the tax increase will be used for operating expenses.
The operating budget includes additional revenue of $500,000 due to the reinstatement of the SaskEnergy utility access fee by the province.
“Last year when it was taken away, we didn’t change our budget for it,” he said. “We were able to effectively make do without and this coming year it will be there, but we didn’t make a change last time for it. We were able again to make our budgeting work, even when that change happened in March and we’ve seen that change now. So it will be an addition to our revenue in 2019.”
The expenses in the operating budget include the cost of adding two police officers to the City RCMP detachment. The City pays for 90 per cent of policing costs and the federal government contributes the remaining 10 per cent. The additional staff will increase the number of RCMP officers in the city from 19 to 21.
Spending on police protection services will increase from just under $3.25 million in 2018 to $3.38 million in 2019. Perrault considered the additional support for the RCMP to be a budget highlight.
“Our local detachment has in the past requested more teammates, and I'm very proud this year we're able to deliver two new teammates to their roster,” he said.
“That's part of our safe and caring community, so that when people do call and do need help we've got the resources available.”
The 2019 operating budget also includes funding for two new full-time City staff positions.
One position is for a partnerships and events coordinator and the other is an attendant position with responsibility for the Lt. Colonel Clifton Centre and the Dickson Community Centre.
“Over the last few years we actually saw no change to our FTE's [full-time equivalent],” he noted. “A lot of it has to do with the growth. Our community is in growth mode. We've got more people here today than we had yesterday and we will have more people tomorrow. We’ve got more businesses. Our City as well, we’ve actually taken on some new facilities when the school division handed us over some of their facilities. The one that remains still intact today was called St. Pats. It’s now called Dickson, and when you have another building you obviously got some more requirements.”
In recent years the City has been actively promoting Swift Current as a venue for various events, and the partnerships and events coordinator will take on those duties full-time.
“2019 is bringing a lot of events, but 2018 had actually a lot, and we're anticipating more going forward,” he said.
“Having somebody that can quarterback all of those, having somebody that can be that lead, will be a key position for our community, and something that we’re proud and excited to be able to do this year. I think it’s timely and fitting and I know it will be a well-served position.”
The City's capital budget for 2019 will be $24,167,439 and 1.6 per cent of the tax increase will be used to fund those project costs.
Capital budget expenditures are grouped under five broad components – growth, connectivity, community, utility services, and corporate.
Major capital budget items under the growth component include $8.5 million on infrastructure expansion (water lines) in the northeast area, $750,000 for the Oman school site development, and $150,000 for the downtown Centennial Market District.
The capital budget allocation under the connectivity component will include $2.26 million for the annual asphalt and concrete programs to maintain streets and sidewalks, $550,000 for intersection improvements, $400,000 to rehabilitate and refurbish the historic CPR weir, $150,000 for upgrading the 2nd Avenue overpass staircases and railings, $75,000 to update the airport master plan, and $67,000 for the expansion of the Chinook Parkway in the northeast area of the city.
The community component capital budget will include $165,000 to replace the siding on the Kinetic Park grandstand, $79,500 to develop a museum exhibit in the last remaining Second World War hangar at the airport, $60,000 to convert Ford baseball field from a pee wee diamond to a bantam diamond, $45,000 for upgrading the lighting system at the Fairview West Arena, $33,500 for upgrades, including roof repairs, at the City pound, and $25,000 to digitize 289 video cassettes from the former CJFB television station that contains historically significant video footage about the community.
The utility services capital budget includes $552,040 for the ongoing project to convert downtown overhead power lines to underground lines, $300,000 for the installation of South Hill check valves and pressure reducing valves, and $25,000 to implement a compost program for yard waste at the East landfill.
The capital budget for the corporate component includes $100,000 to install an electronic billboard on the outdoor east-facing wall of City Hall to promote events and programs, and the purchase of fleet equipment, including $200,000 for a miniexcavator and $140,000 for a smooth drum roller.
Swift Current councillors vote in support of the 2019 municipal budget at a council meeting, Dec. 17. From left, Mayor Denis Perrault and councillors Pat Friesen, Ron Toles and Chris Martens.