Urban municipalities across this country are on the verge of a money crunch which could frankly become the biggest issue we face in our immediate future.
There is a finite amount of money any of us as taxpayers can pay, and while the exact tipping point to where we see widespread tax revolt – people simply refusing to pay the tax bill en masse – our elected officials best be aware the limit grows nearer.
Local municipal governments face the greatest squeeze in the sense they have no capacity, by legislation, to deficit finance. That means if costs rise they have two options, cut those costs, often resulting in programming being reduced, or increase property taxes and make local residents pay more.
The likelihood of municipalities needing more dollars in the short to medium term is high based on the ever aging infrastructure in almost every community across this country.
The situation is notable by looking just a few kilometres east along Highway #16 to the community of Saltcoats.
The town of Saltcoats will have a challenging couple of years. Infrastructure projects need to happen, with a water treatment plant that has to happen by 2023, a lagoon improvement that is tied to the same system, and the need to decommission the landfill.
The situation is such the town held an information meeting last week to inform residents about where they stand right now and what the priorities are for the community.
The problem Saltcoats faces is not unique. It is simply related to aging infrastructure.
Mayor Grant McCallum explained, (see story this issue), that the town faces a number of infrastructure needs hitting around the same time, including the need for a new town shop - the old one, built in a former theatre, was no longer able to meet code, the need for road improvements, the need to decommission the old landfill and a complete rethink of their water treatment facility.
None of those projects come without a significant price tag and there are only so many taxpayers to provide tax dollars in a community with a population of well under 1,000.
It’s only moderately better in Yorkton. The population is larger, but the needs are the same, albeit larger; new cells at the landfill, expected upgrades to sewage treatment, a new water treatment plant still being paid for, a new shop needed.
And if you drive our streets you know there is a growing deterioration of pavement throughout the city. But, dollars are limited. Work on Broadway Street is a ‘shave and pave’ fix, not a complete reconstruction because of costs. So old infrastructure under Broadway grows ever older because the $50-plus million for a complete redo would have cost was beyond the City to afford.
Often we hear calls of the province to help more, but highways, bridges, hospitals and schools are all aging and so they have their own infrastructure crisis looming.
The federal government simply does not have the resources to help every community in terms of infrastructure across Canada.
So what is the solution?
That is clearly the question governments at all three levels must answer – and it needs to be soon!