Since the election is not far off I thought I should bring up some issues that may give local citizens some background for the coming political debate on our town’s financial position.
Since 2009/2010 this council has spent approximately $45 million. By their own accounting: $7.5 million for the RCMP building, $22 million for Lakeshore Drive redevelopment, $8 million for the new civic administration building, $3 million for the new public works building and another $4.5 million for the new fire hall.
They have already borrowed $6.5 million for the RCMP building and $3.3 million for the fire hall, as well having used $25.3 million in reserves. As reported in the Sylvan Lake News an additional $10 million will be borrowed in 2014 for the multiplex which will require another $10 million to finish the project and another $2 million for Phase 5 of the Lakeshore Drive redevelopment. These are just your big ticket items.
We all should be aware that the Lakeshore Drive/Centennial Park project, while costing $23,630,000 to date, was not strictly paid for by grants given exclusively for this project by the province or federal government. The grants used to fast track this project could instead have been used to build a spray park, update the curling rink, for new roads and sidewalks or many other needs and wants of our community. I’m not saying that this was not a good use of taxpayer money, but shouldn’t we have been told that’s where this council’s priorities were? Were you aware that the next council will have to borrow even more money to pay for those facilities, parks and roads that you determine are a priority?
Director of Finance Darren Moore was quoted in the Sylvan Lake News stating he would “only increase total tax revenue by two per cent each year” and that his debt limit calculations were “conservative”. Two per cent per year? Eight per cent increase over four years? As stated in the Sylvan Lake News, “Projections show the town’s debt moving from 34 per cent of the total limit in 2013 to 63 per cent next year, then dropping to 60 per cent in 2015, 50 per cent in 2016 and 2017 and jumping again to 67 per cent in 2018.” And that we are “going to see a period of a couple of years where debt servicing costs are going to increase substantially”. So not only will we be even more in debt, but the costs to service the debt are going to increase substantially. Hopefully, these items will be addressed by candidates and questions about our costs asked by the public at the forums.