City tax rate raised by 2.9 per cent for 2019

The Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE -

“I be­lieve a lot of it has to do with care­ful plan­ning, dili­gence, and I think a good team. We’re al­ways try­ing to look for ef­fi­cien­cies. We’re al­ways try­ing to be able to do bet­ter. And I re­ally be­lieve our city team, over the last few years, have def­i­nitely been able to do that,” Per­rault said after the unan­i­mous ap­proval of the bud­get.

The mod­est tax in­crease is part of the first bud­get after City Coun­cil adopted a fi­nan­cial strat­egy start­ing back in 2013 to move away from a re­liance on Light and Power div­i­dends and away from debt fi­nanc­ing for cap­i­tal projects. In the six bud­gets from 2013 to 2018, the changed fi­nan­cial strat­egy re­sulted in a to­tal tax in­crease of 56.9 per cent. In 2017 in went up 14.1 per cent and last year the city bud­get in­creased 13.14 per cent.

“That com­pleted last year. And that’s to our ad­van­tage. That wasn’t easy. And you’re right, we did see some larger than usual tax changes over the last few years. But that’s com­plete now. We’re in a bet­ter po­si­tion to­day than where we were, while still main­tain­ing the low­est taxes in the prov­ince across all cities.”

“There was six years con­sec­u­tive where what we were do­ing was a fi­nan­cial strat­egy. We were try­ing to take our re­liance away from debt,” he ex­plained. “The goal re­ally is to use our Light and Power div­i­dend to use it for cap­i­tal projects in the year. And in the past that Light and Power div­i­dend was ef­fec­tively sub­si­diz­ing op­er­a­tions.”

Per­rault said the bud­get re­flects the suc­cess of that fi­nan­cial strat­egy and avoids the need for a large in­crease this year. The 2019 bud­get aims to raise $22.73 mil­lion through tax levy and grants, only slightly higher than the $22.18 mil­lion in tax rev­enue in the 2018 bud­get.

“Quite frankly I don’t think we need to,” he said of pro­ceed­ing with a larger tax in­crease this year. “We’re try­ing to give the best ser­vice that we can for a fair price to our cit­i­zens. 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.”

One of the high­light ex­pen­di­tures an­nounced in the bud­get de­liv­ers fund­ing to add two new mem­bers for the Swift Cur­rent City RCMP De­tach­ment.

“Our RCMP, 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 ros­ters. 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.”

This ad­di­tional fund­ing will grow the RCMP staff com­ple­ment to 21 of­fi­cers. The city de­tach­ment is cur­rently staffed by one Staff Sergeant, one Sergeant, two Cor­po­rals, along with 15 Con­sta­bles (two plain clothes mem­bers, a school li­ai­son of­fi­cer, and 12 gen­eral duty in­ves­ti­ga­tion mem­bers).

As a re­sult of the two new po­si­tions, the 2019 bud­get for all por­tions of po­lice pro­tec­tion spend­ing will grow to $3.38 mil­lion, up from last year’s to­tal of just un­der $3.25 mil­lion. Through the Mu­nic­i­pal Po­lice Ser­vice Agree­ment, the City of Swift Cur­rent pays 90 per cent of all polic­ing costs, with 10 per cent con­trib­uted by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Per­rault ad­mit­ted this piece of the bud­get is a high­light, and he cred­its a strong pre­sen­ta­tion by Staff Sergeant Gary Hodges in lay­ing out the im­por­tance to two added of­fi­cers to their com­pli­ment of mem­bers.

“That’s ac­tu­ally one of the proud­est items that I see on there, al­beit each and ev­ery piece was some­thing that was de­lib­er­ated and dis­cussed with all of our coun­cil. And each and ev­ery piece of the pie is very im­por­tant. That’s one that stands out for me, and es­pe­cially the year our RCMP had. They were very busy. And I know they’re go­ing to be just as busy in ’19, so I want them to have the team­mates stand­ing along side them to be able to ac­com­plish all of their goals.”

After a few years of not adding any FTE (full time equiv­a­lent) jobs, the City is adding a Part­ner­ships and Events Co­or­di­na­tor along with a Lt. Colonel Clifton Cen­tre and Dick­son Com­mu­nity Cen­tre At­ten­dant.

“A lot of it has to do with the growth. Our com­mu­nity is in growth mode,” Per­rault ex­plained.

The Part­ner­ships and Events Co­or­di­na­tor po­si­tion will be an im­por­tant job in help­ing towards the suc­cess of a va­ri­ety of an­nual and new events oc­cur­ring in the com­mu­nity.

“2019 is bring­ing a lot of events. But ’18 ac­tu­ally had a lot, and we’re an­tic­i­pat­ing more go­ing for­ward. 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 are very 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.”

Other ex­pen­di­tures high­lighted dur­ing the bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion in­clude:

- To achieve com­mu­nity growth, the city will be spend­ing $824,000 on plan­ning and an­other $347,000 on land de­vel­op­ment for a to­tal ex­pen­di­ture of $1.17 mil­lion or 5.16 per cent of their op­er­at­ing bud­get.

- Fea­tured pub­lic works pur­chases in­clude $200,000 for a mini ex­ca­va­tor and $140,000 for a smooth drum roller.

The City will be spend­ing $100,000 to in­stall an out­door elec­tronic bill­board as a com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool to ratepay­ers and vis­i­tors.

“This bill­board will be in­stru­men­tal in pro­mot­ing all of our city events and our city fa­cil­i­ties such as pro­grams, meet­ings, work­shops, open houses, and also the hap­pen­ings of the 2019 Western Canada Sum­mer Games. This pro­ject is part of our strat­egy to fur­ther en­gage all of our pub­lic,” Per­rault said.

- The Light and Power Sys­tem Im­prove­ment Pro­ject will con­tinue this year, with just over $550,000 spent to con­vert ad­di­tional over­head power lines in the down­town core be con­verted to un­der­ground lines.

- Some en­gi­neer­ing and site up­grades at a cost of $25,000 are re­quired to launch a yard waste com­post­ing pro­ject at the East Land­fill.

- The bud­get ap­proved a re­fur­bish­ing the Ki­netic Park Grand­stand at a cost of $165,000, with new steel sid­ing, and funds to re-stain the bleacher seats and stands.

- The City will be spend­ing $79,500 to de­velop an ar­ti­fact ex­hibit in the last re­main­ing World War II hangar at the Swift Cur­rent Air­port to com­mem­o­rate the Bri­tish Com­mon­wealth Air Train­ing Plan (BCATP) Ser­vice Fly­ing Train­ing School which op­er­ated in Swift Cur­rent from 1941 to 1944.

- The SPCA pound will be re­ceiv­ing a $33,500 roof re­pair and other up­grades.

- The City has bud­geted $2.26 mil­lion for this year’s as­phalt and con­crete pro­gram which will work on pri­or­ity paved street, side­walk and curb­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. This past year the city fin­ished 850 me­tres of full road re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and 700 me­tres of curb and side­walk re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

- They are also spend­ing $150,000 to re­place the stairs of the 2nd Ave. over­pass which date to 1959.

- Plan­ning is un­der­way for a $550,000 in­ter­sec­tion im­prove­ment at Chap­lin St. W. and 1st Ave. N.W. which will up­grade the traf­fic lights and un­der­ground util­i­ties, while im­prov­ing the turn­ing ra­dius at the in­ter­sec­tion and im­prov­ing the side­walks and paving the street.

SCOTT AN­DER­SON/SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

Swift Cur­rent Mayor De­nis Per­rault pre­sented the 2019 bud­get at the De­cem­ber 17 Swift Cur­rent Coun­cil Meet­ing.

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