Town taxes, debt and future borrowing were all front and centre during a forum of council candidates hosted by Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce last Friday night.
Several questions sought answers from candidates about the issues. Each question was posed to three of the ten candidates.
The first question asked their opinion of borrowing funds for the fire hall, multiplex and other developments.
Neil Evans said with interest rates the way they are, there isn’t a better time. “It’s a smart move to borrow before interest rates go up,” he said of the need to do the projects.
“I’m not opposed to borrowing money for necessary services,” said Rick Grimson. “It would be irresponsible not to borrow for services that are necessary. Rates are favourable, we have to grow the corporation to meet the needs of our citizens.”
Wendy Sauvageau agreed. “I’m fully in favour of borrowing money at this time. The lending rate is the best it is. The fire hall is not a want, it’s a mandatory need. We have to supply them with things, we want to know we have trucks, ladders, equipment needed.”
A subsequent question sought candidates’ positions on the residential-commercial mix of the tax base and whether residential is too high and commercial too low.
The current split is that 87 per cent of taxes are collected from residential properties and 13 per cent from industrial-commercial, indicated Grimson.
“That’s a huge spread, the ideal situation is 60-40. The town has to annex additional property on both sides of town to accommodate growth.”
Matt Prete answered, “You can’t increase or reduce by taxing businesses more than you do now.” He said the town already as a “very high business tax compared to other communities … We’ve got to work on industrial development, annexation, make it easier for businesses to do business. We need to build something, bring more service businesses in.”
Megan Chernoff said the big key is to send the message “we’re open for business”. She stated the town hasn’t made the process as easy as it could be.