The debate was a good one and our city councillors are to be commended for waging the discussion during a session that was open for public and media scrutiny rather than staging it behind closed doors.
Last week, our elected representatives decided to raise local property taxes by one mill, which will increase civic revenues by nearly $400,000 according to original rough calculations.
When the debate opened, it became clear that our councillors were going to select one of three options on which to base their arguments.
The first option was to hold the line on the local tax base, the second was to raise it by a one-half mill and the third was a full mill hike. The full mill option won the day but only after alternatives were explored and debated.
Solid arguments were raised for each of the three options and they were presented with conviction, and a solid grounding in facts. There was even a touch of emotion and enthusiasm, which is always good to see in an elected politician, especially at a grassroots level.
The actual tax increase almost appeared to be of secondary importance as the discussion rolled to a conclusion and the vote was called by Mayor Gary St. Onge. The call was made only after all councillors had the opportunity to present their complete arguments.
Whether or not the majority of taxpayers (and we are all taxpayers if we live in the city) agree with the one mill increase, will be determined later. The fact is, it's now a done deal, and it's not as if the City will have to go searching for a way to spend the additional cash.
We've increased our population by about 20 per cent in the past four years and since Estevan is an industrial city, it means we are pretty hard on our local infrastructure. A further fact is that older parts of our city need to be maintained while we continue to build new business and residential sectors in all directions.
The reality of growth requires our civic administration and management to provide us with a whole bunch of not-so-glamorous services, but these are services we expect such as sewer relief, potable water, paved, well-lit streets and avenues, access to the new areas, curbs, storm drains, parks, trees and sidewalks.
When a city is adding new businesses and new housing on a daily basis and welcoming an additional 3,000 citizens in the course of a year or two ... the local service and supply teams need to be ready and for that; they require cash, equipment as well as additional personnel.
With a local three- to five-year tax-free incentive in place to encourage some types of construction, residents can be somewhat comforted in the fact that some of these structures built during the first building surge will soon be coming off the tax-free rolls and added to the tax-paying rolls and more will join them the next year and so on. So perhaps the pressure on the hard-pressed taxpaying public won't be so severe in 2013 and 2014. But then that will be a decision that will be made by a freshly elected council since we go to the polls this October to select them.
We hope that the newly elected team will bring the same type of rational thinking and decision-making capabilities to the table that this current crew brought to the floor last week.