As this Council begins Year Two of our mandate, we are embarking on the process of developing a New Horizon that reflects the needs of our citizens and community while positioning us to sustain and even enhance our quality of life for generations to come.
Our Budget is the means to reach our New Horizon. It allows us to direct resources to services and projects the community prioritizes. It is a measure of the strength of our economy as it sits today, weighing both the opportunities and the challenges we face. It is a measure of our existing community assets and how they are set up to serve us and attract growth moving forward. It is a measure of our resources, ensuring that the right people have the right supplies and equipment to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
Reaching our New Horizon each year is imperative. Failing to do so in a given year leaves us further behind in the following years, creating a compound effect that forces even tougher decisions down the road.
Quick Link: 2022 City of Swift Current Budget
What’s on the Horizon
We will continue to take care of the vital infrastructure that allows our city to function and thrive, as well as adding new infrastructure in areas of need. We are very excited for the Inclusive Playground project that is slated for the Southside of our City. While this project is dependent on grant funding from other levels of government, we hope to move this project forward in 2022 and we look forward to working with citizens – including kids – to design this new playground that will be accessible for all!
We will also be completing significant work at our North Hill Reservoir in 2022, adding additional water flow and capacity in this area. Projects such as this are vital in reaching our New Horizon as they allow us to better serve our existing customers and accommodate new ones as we grow.
Projects such as the Roof Replacement at the Aquatic Centre, Traffic Improvements at the busy Central Avenue North/Cheadle Street Intersection in our downtown core, our work to enhance the Storm Sewer System to provide flood relief in the recently-annexed area west of the City, as well as significant work to alleviate localized flooding issues in our downtown core area are all on this year’s docket, and all will play a role in improving our collective quality of life.
Our New Horizon includes opportunities, as well, such as our recent agreement to acquire additional franchise area from SaskPower. While not realized immediately, this investment will have a long-term, positive economic impact on Swift Current as new and existing customers in this franchise area pay off the acquisition cost and profits pay significant dividends to our entire community for generations to come.
Our Active Pathways project is another example of us capitalizing on an opportunity to complete a major infrastructure project for pennies on the dollar. Through our diligence, this significant investment in one of Swift Current’s most prized recreational amenities – our pathway system – fell below budget in 2021 allowing us to further enhance the pathway system in 2022.
Lastly, we will be completing our Strategic Plan in 2022, following the initial phases of this project which included sector-based focus group sessions and a citizen survey that was recently completed. These initial phases have allowed us to take the pulse of our community, providing us with the insight to steer the ship towards our New Horizon based on your community priorities.
Challenges to our 2022 Budget include the federally-ratified City Policing contract. Our local RCMP provide an invaluable service to our community, keeping our citizens safe while reducing crime and traffic issues on our busy streets. These officers have been without a contract since 2017, and their new contract will include retroactive pay. This creates significant additional pressure in 2022 and 2023; however, it is necessary to maintain safety in our city. The cost of this increase in 2022 will be $489,203.
The Federal Carbon Tax is another expense that is slated to increase again this year, climbing approximately $90,000 for a total of $213,709 in 2022.
Moving to Debt, aside from the acquisition of additional SaskPower franchise area, our efforts to pay down debt last year and this will see approximately $5.75 million of principal debt removed from our ledger by the end of 2022, a trend that will continue in future years.
Reaching our New Horizon
As explained, we must and we will reach our New Horizon, and this means that in 2022 you can expect:
• The same levels of service you have always received from your City
• Investments in projects that move your community forward
• A focus on paying down community debt
• A dedication to finding opportunities that better our community today and tomorrow
Having established the pressures faced by our municipality in 2022, which equate to an approximate 6.3% increase in costs, we were faced with difficult decisions in order to finalize our budget. This Council has been clear in its mandate to reduce municipal debt and has no appetite to take on additional debt that will ultimately be passed along to our children. In addition, our thorough review of projects and services indicates that we were able to find significant efficiencies last year and we are not in a position to cut projects and services that will only compound pressures for future generations.
We are, however, happy to report that Council and Administration were able to significantly mitigate many of these pressures during the budgeting process, allowing us to reduce what could have been a 6.3% property tax increase to a more manageable 2.15% increase in 2022. The 2.15% increase creates $418,250 in taxation revenue for the City.