Tuesday July 29, 2014

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Survey results are meant for general information only, and are not based on recognised statistical methods.




Getting our money's worth

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Reasonable people will generally accept a mill rate increase if they can see a viable reason for it.

If it's going towards meeting a need – be it perceived or actual – they will typically fork over additional money through their property taxes. Last year was a perfect example: property taxes soared, but it made the rebuild of much of Highway 47 through Estevan possible.

Without the property tax increase (along with significant support from the provincial government), the full Highway 47 rebuild wouldn't have happened, and the road would still be a pothole-riddled bane for motorists in the Energy City.

Estevan City Council has approved a 1.8 mill increase again this year, which will generate more than $2 million for City coffers. For an average property (with an assessed value of $280,000), property taxes will increase about $164 for this year.

Once broken down, it's not significant – it equates to about $3 per week – but it's still a challenge for residents on fixed or low incomes.

Residents who are expecting that this year's tax increase will yield another big, new infrastructure project, like last year's Highway 47 rebuild, will be disappointed.

The money generated by this year's mill rate increase is going towards paying down about $5 million of the City's burdensome $37 million debt; and to completing projects from previous years, such as the long-overdue, and frequently delayed, resurfacing of the gravel slab "parking lot" in front of the Souris Valley Aquatic and Leisure Centre.

The biggest road repairs will be resurfacing 13th Avenue from Fourth Street to Sixth Street, and an upgrade to the intersection at Sixth Street and 13th Avenue.

The proposed rebuild for Sixth Street between Souris Avenue and 13th Avenue will wait another year. Repairs to King Street, Fifth Street, Souris Avenue South and numerous crumbling residential roads aren't in the budget, either.

The 2014 financial plan was billed as a stripped-down document when it was first tabled nearly five months ago, and it has remained exactly that.

Debt repayment is the highlight, and it's great that the City is paying down more than 12 per cent of its debt this year. Most residents can see the value in that initiative. But there are going to be those who are going to loudly complain over where their tax money is going, because to them, $5 million in debt repayment isn't enough to justify a significant tax increase.

If you want to get things done, tax increases are a must, thanks to the rising cost of doing business. But this year's tax increase will be a harder sell, because it represents the second straight sizable jump in property taxes, and because the biggest selling point in this year's budget is debt repayment.

 


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