It's the eternal dilemma for Estevan City Council, and other municipal councils: raise the mill rate and listen to people complain about higher taxes, or cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from the capital budget, and listen to people gripe about how Council is doing nothing, particularly on the infrastructure front.
Of course, there are those who will complain that taxes are going up, yet Council does nothing. Worst of all are the residents of Fantasyland who think that a full slate of capital projects can be completed without a tax increase.
Does somebody want to explain the concept of inflation to them?
Estevan City Council encountered their annual dilemma at a meeting on June 11, and voted in favour of a one-mill increase. A couple of members – Councillors Roy Ludwig and Brian Johnson – voted against the motion, suggesting that a half-mill increase would generate sufficient revenues.
Give Council credit – approving a mill rate increase in an election year is not an easy decision. Voters tend to have short memories. They'll remember the contentious issues from this year, but the controversies of 2010 will be distant memories. People tend to recall how their taxes increased once they arrive at the polling station.
Most voters, who apply reason and logic to their evaluations, understand that a taxation increase is needed each year for projects to be completed. They'll fork over a little more money if they see something happening.
They will view road repairs as the indicator of their tax increase at work, but you aren't going to repair roads with the $380,000 generated by a one-mill increase. A mill rate increase allows the smaller and medium-sized projects to proceed. You won't resurface King Street with the money generated by a one-mill increase, but don't underestimate the value of some of the smaller projects in the operations of this city.
It's great to see Estevan grow. It sure beats the alternative of a stagnant community with minimal development and activity, and a slowly dwindling population. We remember those days. It wasn't as much fun as the current boom town days, when the population is growing, and new services and businesses are arriving.
People should celebrate when Alberta Venture magazine says Estevan is the best community in Saskatchewan to do business. Who could argue? There's a diverse economy, a business-friendly climate and several projects that are beneficial for industry. Estevan is a city with a lot of opportunities, and people follow opportunity.
But a growing community has needs. If you're a municipality, you'll have to spend money to meet those needs. And the way to get that money is by incrementally raising the mill rate each year.