Infrastructure deficit is not new to city residents.
In fact, with each year and each new budget, the deficit seems to grow. While it is understandable that there is only so much money to go around and not all of it can be dedicated to infrastructure, there is no doubt city councillors need to develop a plan to deal with it before all of it is destroyed.
In the proposed 2013-2017 capital budget presented to council Monday night, the city would have expenses of $102.83 million over five years, but the 10-year unfunded capital budget of critical infrastructure projects has $218.58 million in expenses. Combined, the expenses are $321.41 million.
Short-term planning only goes so far. Long-term planning is required. There needs to be an actual plan to address the projects outlined in the 10-year unfunded capital budget as well.
For example, the water mains are 100 years old. They desperately need replacing. Sidewalks and roads are two other examples that need attention now. Last week, the budget committee shot down city administration’s initiative to use SPC (SaskPower Corporation) funds to establish an infrastructure reserve for partnership opportunities with provincial and federal governments to address infrastructure in the future. That was a long-term plan. The majority of councillors voted to spend that money now.
We can’t continue to have band-aid solutions that only last for a short-term. The problems aren’t going away. While we certainly need to do something about the infrastructure now, putting away extra money in a reserve fund would be a great way to have funds available several years from now.
If infrastructure needs are continually ignored, the city will be in desperate shape 10 years from now. The cast iron water mains, for example, are 100 years old. They can’t wait another 10 years.
In the next five years, administration proposed the city’s outstanding debt would increase to $54 million. Councillors need to make a plan to pay off those debts and fix infrastructure. Granted, this will not be an easy task and hard decisions are going to have to be made.
As taxpayers, we’re not all going to approve of the decisions councillors will have to make to fix infrastructure. But we’re the ones who live in the city. Having our taxes used to fix infrastructure as much as possible will improve everyone’s quality of life, even if just by not having coloured water.
The capital budget is on the table. Now it’s time to formulate a plan. All of the elected councillors stated infrastructure was a primary issue during the election campaign. Now it's time to see them act on it while thinking about the present and the future.
All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.