Swift Cur­rent's 2019 bud­get in­cludes a 2.9 per cent tax in­crease

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG mlieben­berg@prairiepos­t.com

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.

Photo by Matthew Lieben­berg

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.

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