Tuesday September 02, 2014

EDITORIAL - Municipal tax hike warranted


Municipal taxes will jump 5.5 per cent in 2014.

That is a significant hike to be sure.

But what is more significant is there has been little, or no public backlash to the increase which had the unanimous support of Yorkton Council at its Nov. 4 Committee of the Whole meeting.

In fact when asked about feedback last week by Council City Manager David Putz replied “administratively we have not received any questions, or comments.”

That the public is remaining basically silent on an increase which will mean an average home in Yorkton currently assessed at $200,000 will pay an additional $72 a year in taxes, suggests two things.

On one hand when an economy is strong, as it has been locally the last few years, the appetite to accept tax increases is higher.

And it also suggests there is an understanding that the increase is required.

The majority of the increase will be dedicated to capital expenditures (4.5 per cent).

Most of the additional capital expenditures will be invested in expanding the city’s water drainage system in reaction to the extreme flood of July 1, 2010.

The remainder is targeted at infrastructure renewal, and in that regard Yorkton, like all cities across Canada and actually North America, the need to infrastructure dollars is significant.

We can look at a project like the Gallagher Centre upgrade at near $25 million a decade ago, and the new water treatment plant which opened last year at some $40 million were big dollars, but once you start thinking about renewing sidewalks, asphalt, and water and sewer lines the numbers explode.

Take for example the Broadway Street project Yorkton Council now has on the drawing boards.

The project would see the pavement stripped, the underground pipes and sewer lines replaced where required, and new pavement laid. The cost could easily reach $40 million, depending on the exact condition of the underground structure.

And Broadway is one street within the downtown core. Factor that by the number of streets and avenues in the heart of Yorkton (our oldest area in terms of when infrastructure was installed), and the numbers quickly forecast into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

While Council has stated the Broadway project will not move forward without grant dollars from higher levels of government, the City would still need to make a major investment to see it move forward.

And if grants are not forthcoming, the infrastructure will only grow older, and eventually the work will have to be done.

There is after all a life expectancy to all things, pipes, sidewalk concrete and street asphalt included. Eventually they will fail. While you can drive around a street pothole, or walk without sidewalks, failed water and sewer lines would be truly disastrous.

And so Council is trying to work on a problem they are well aware will only become more critical as time passes.

“The deficit in infrastructure is big,” said Mayor Bob Maloney, following a recent meeting of Saskatchewan City Mayors.

To get a better idea just how large the need is, the City Mayors have commissioned a study, which Maloney said will be coming forth soon.

Locally, Yorkton is looking to invest more in infrastructure renewal, the proposed 2014 calling for a dollar figure near double that invested seven years ago. Maloney said he expected “it will need to double again,” and long before another seven years pass.

And therein lies the need for local tax increases.

Why they might pinch the pocketbook, it is an investment we must make in our City’s future.



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