The 2012 Swift Current Municipal Budget package

Swift Current City Council introduced and approved the 2012 Municipal Budget at their regular meeting Monday night.

The balanced budget contains $42,433,000 in operating and utility expenditures, and $17,757,205 in capital expenditures. It also contains a tax increase totalling 12.2%, indicating a 4.2% increase to cover civic services, and 8% to make up for a reduction in the police subsidy, after the city's 2011 census population exceeded 15,000.
"The bulk of the increase is just simply out of our hands," said Swift Current Mayor Jerrod Schafer. "It's a subsidy loss that we have due to the census numbers. It doesn't change the way the RCMP operates, it just simply changes the way that it's funded in our community, and it's something that, unfortunately this year, we have to eat that cost."

Schafer added an option that would reduce the impact on taxpayers is a reduction in the number of police officers in the city, but that would mean a drop in policing services below 24-hour service. "We've had a minimum-manned RCMP station to focus on affordability," he said. "If we looked at cutting services in that regard, we just simply wouldn't have enough to offer 24-hour service to our residents, and I don't think there is anybody in Swift Current that would deem that acceptable." The budget, in fact, calls for the addition of a new RCMP member dedicated to the city's youth, and the new liason officer will be brought in on a trial basis starting this fall.

The impact the budget will have on the average homeowner in Swift Current is a property tax increase of $8.54 per month, with $5.64 covering the police subsidy loss. Property taxes will continue to be among the lowest in the province, and the city currently collects half of the taxes when compared with the similarly-sized cities of North Battleford and Yorkton. Yorkton receives $17.2 million in tax revenues and North Battleford receives $14.1 million, while Swift Current receives just $7.3 million.

"It's so telling to think about if the cost of taxed municipal services in Swift Current was the same as it was in Yorkton or North Battleford, what would that extra $7-15 million a year in revenue do for our residents and the services they demand?" Schafer added. "We're not there, and we're not proposing to go there, but I think it's pretty interesting to think of the service-level changes if it was the same cost."

The spending highlights of the 2012 Municipal Budget include:
  • $1.1 million toward the city's annual street and sidewalk renewal program, including the rehabilitation of Chaplin Street, and the roadway on the 2nd Avenue overpass.
  • $250,000 for the full re-construction of the intersection of 2nd Ave NE and Chaplin Street as part of the city's downtown intersection improvements that began last year.
  • $2 million for the rehabilitation of Memorial Drive (the former Highway 4 bypass), pending design completion and provincial funding approval.
  • $300,000 to purchase two new transit buses in anticipation of a new scheduled bus service.
  • $325,000 to purchase runway clearing and cleaning equipment for the Swift Current Regional Airport.
  • $650,000 for infrastructure renewal, including replacing storm pipe in North Railway Street and renewal of a storm main on the south side.
  • $395,000 to complete infrastructure in the Highland Subdivision.
  • $1.5 million for utility servicing for new residential lots and a new personal care home in the city's northeast, and $3 million for property development work for the new public and Catholic schools to be built in the city.
  • The final $2.6 million required to complete the Water Treatment Plant expansion project, which is expected to be done and operational by early summer.
  • $500,000 to complete construction of the new west landfill, and $400,000 to construct transfer facilities and start to decommission the east landfill.
  • The hiring of a new professional planner for the city.
  • Continuation of the Light and Power utility's conversion/system improvement project, and equipment and materials to begin the downtown commercial underground project.
  • Improvements to the refrigeration system at the Credit Union iplex.
  • Improvements at Kinetic Park including paving and barn refurbishing.
  • A new online booking system for Chinook Golf Course, as well as creekbank stabilization and the building of a new bridge at the 13th hole.
  • Conversion of the Highland Park green space to an active athletic field.
  • The design and development of a new all-weather outdoor track to be located at the Comprehensive High School.
  • Continued investment into older water play areas at Westside, Riverside and Rotary Parks.
  • Engineering services to link the Chinook Pathway to the northeast subdivision
  • A part-time position to provide year-round weekly recreational programming.
  • $135,800 for capital projects at the Art Gallery of Swift Current, Cultural Festival Grounds, and the Museum.
  • $125,000 for the rehabilitation of the Lyric Theatre, contingent on the Southwest Cultural Development Group receiving a $500,000 matching federal grant.
  • A new water tanker for the Fire Department, as well as a rescue pumper on a joint purchase with the Cities of Moose Jaw and North Battleford, to replace three end-of-service-life vehicles.
The Municipal Budget package is available online from the city's website, and informational pamphlets will be mailed out to city residents.

Mayor Jerrod Schafer presents the Municipal Budget:

Jerrod Schafer talked with reporters after Monday's Council meeting: