The financial picture in the City of Yorkton continues to look solid, at least through the end of 2019, being before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Monday, at the regular meeting of Yorkton Council $422,000 was put into the City’s ‘rainy day’ fund after running a solid surplus on operations last year.
The City also continues to operate with a debt load under the borrowing limit determined by the province.
That is important since it is reasonable the municipality have a borrowing buffer, wiggle room to access dollars, should an emergency occur. Having gone through two major flood incidents in recent memory we are keenly aware how an emergency can pop up literally overnight.
The City is also in good condition in terms of facilities, at least for the most part. The Gallagher Centre is relatively new in terms of facilities of its type, as are the Gloria Hayden Centre, fire hall and of course the recently announced public works upgrade will be new construction.
There are of course a few facilities that are in need of upgrades, and outright replacement, the grandstand and Kinsmen Arena coming to mind.
Of course it tends to be easiest to commit dollars to new buildings. Everyone likes the idea of driving by a new addition to the cityscape and feeling good about the build, including MPs and MLAs who are typically asked to lobby for funding, and of course Council who make the decision.
Even taxpayers tend to be supportive, if not when the discussion takes place because it might mean new taxes, but once they can see the new fire hall, or swimming pool to better appreciate what it means to the community.
Of course the rather large elephant, literally a mammoth, in the room in regards to the City’s finances is a massive infrastructure deficit in areas which are not quite as glitzy as the Gloria Hayden Centre or what will be the new public works home.
The problem lies in the asphalt of our city streets, the cement of our sidewalks and the pipes underground that carry drinking water to our homes, and effluent away from them. Those elements of Yorkton’s infrastructure, like in many communities from small villages to the largest cities in the country, are decades old – past what one would expect as their reasonable life expectancy,
Investing in a bunch of pipe that upon installation mean traffic disruptions, and once the job is complete the hole is filled and the effort soon forgotten, is a harder sell to taxpayers and to Councils, but ultimately continued flow of water and effluent trumps replacing an ice surface.
Moving forward, the City’s finances may yet be severely pressured as the hidden infrastructure needs grow, and that means continued diligence in how finances are handled.