Impending election starting to weigh on councillors

Less than a year from now Sylvan Lake residents will be going to the polls to elect a new council.

Less than a year from now Sylvan Lake residents will be going to the polls to elect a new council.

They’ll likely be thinking about the good and the bad in the decisions made during the past term as they contemplate re-electing those who choose to run again.

It’s interesting therefore to watch some of the decisions, the discussions and the planning already underway.

At Monday night’s council meeting, for instance, Councillor Rick Grimson wanted the raised intersections corrected as soon as possible because it’s likely if the job is left until a new council is sworn in, those intersections would be torn out completely.

Then there was discussion about the proposed $16.5 million multiplex to replace the aging arena.

There’s no question the facility needs to be replaced. The town has had the structure checked and been told at most it could last five years without costly work. And a new facility is estimated to take three years to build, according to a survey on the town’s website that residents were asked to answer.

During discussion on proceeding to the detailed drawings stage, the message came across very clearly from Mayor Susan Samson and Councillor Graham Parsons that the community better get on board with fundraising or the project could be stalled. Various stages where further council approvals are required were outlined. At any of those stages councillors may decide to put the brakes on the project.

While we can’t see that happening, we do agree with councillors that taxpayers shouldn’t pay the full burden for the new facility. That may become clearer when the town decides to debenture part of the cost and taxpayers have a chance to challenge the town’s borrowing.

That brings us to another item which was interesting. The budget for next year which proposes a 2.4 per cent increase in the municipal tax rate. At Monday’s meeting councillors delayed passing the budget which has been in the public forum for about a month, so residents would have more time to provide comments.

The town has hosted three ‘Coffee With Council’ sessions to try and garner feedback (the latest Tuesday night at the arena). So hopefully they’ve been given some suggestions.

We wonder if there’s been any question about the need for an increase in the tax rate every year. Has there been any consideration to reducing taxes?

That’s probably a laughable statement. But when it comes to business owners we’ve talked to, those who are concerned about increasing expenses and the finite line between profit and closure, there’s definitely a strong feeling that the differential in the town’s tax rate between commercial and residential properties is too great.

We agree. It’s a discussion that needs to take place. But will it happen before the next election or could it become an issue for debate next fall?