Written by a concerned rate payer in Aberdeen

RM of Aberdeen Zone 2 Meeting Request

We would like your input on a meeting in the near future. We tried to organize a couple of dates however we haven’t received a lot of input as of today. I believe we had about 14 responses. We can reschedule the date if that works best for everyone but it is difficult to find a date that works for everyon. However, we will put a few dates out there and hope we have better attendance. Part of the issue may very well be the lack of options and we will try more dates in the next email to everyone.

What we wanted to meeting about…
is to get everyone’s input into the fall election that’s coming up this year. As we all know, the developments in Zone 2, and others, have not received the services we should be getting and deserve for all the taxes we pay. We sent around the last three years of audits that we asked for because the RM hasn’t posted them on their website which means many of us don’t know where are tax dollars are being spent and on what. Proper governance with standard policies and procedures are lacking and that’s being generous. We have all heard stories of roads being built and rebuilt in zones where they may or may not be necessary with our tax dollars.

Do you know what your tax dollars are being spent on? Do you know how much, collectively, we pay each year? Did you know that in 2014, the most current financial statements we have access to, reflect that the RM collected almost $1 million from acreage developments and about $400 from agriculture. So what did we get for that $1 million? Did you also know that almost all developments are in Zone 2? That means about 80-90% of your tax dollars have been spent elsewhere. Is that ok with everyone and are you comfortable paying your property taxes towards the upkeep of roads, improvements and expenditures in many other areas but not ours? what about our mill rate. In 2009!the mill rate was set at 10 by your RM Council. In 2014 they reduced it to 7 But we are still a lot higher than most RMs in the district.

The total tax dollars received by the RM was $2.2 million in 2014 (2015 still unavailable at this time). $1.4 million total from your tax dollars, $290k from potash royalties and another $180k from the Province of Sask plus other grants, fees and charges for $350 to make up the annual revenues. Therefore, the RM receives $2.2 million per year of which almost 50% is paid with your tax dollars. We are only 1/6th the land base yet our population is well over the 50% mark and closer to 75% if we had current population numbers (which we hope to get in the coming months).

Transportation Services (road maintenance) was over 70% of last years budget. Do you feel you received good services from your $1 million in taxes? This department averages about 50% – 70% of the total annual budget each and every year. We now have 4 graders but none of the operators, from what we have been told, have ever taken proper grader operation training so they don’t know how to grade the roads according to standard road maintenance guidelines. Only two of these graders have GPS so they can track where these machines are running. That means two graders could be sitting in a yard idling all day and we would never know it or some roads are getting regular grading when others that are full of ruts are only graded once or twice a year. How can a department be run by inexperienced staff without any changes being made? What’s more, one of the councillors has a gravel pit and sells gravel to the RM every year plus he is also in charge of the road maintenance crew! How can that not be a conflict of interest no matter what the best interest is or limited options are available to all those involved?

Last year we spent $1.6 million on road maintenance. Of that amount, the RM (on behalf of all of our dollars) spent $400k on salaries in this dept, another $440k on maintenance, materials and supplies (we need a detailed list of all of these items in this dept) plus $320k on gravel. Then we leased some equipment for another $100k. Was this leased equipment leased from one of the councillors or a related party? We heard it was. Is that a conflict of interest or worse? Are there other related corps that are also benefiting from these services that are not following proper governance protocols? I believe it’s time to bring our RM into the 21st century and voice our concerns to all those involved and if changes are not made then it’s time for a new Reeve and other Councillors at the election this fall.

Of that $1 million we are paying each year, how satisfied are we with the services we are getting? Are there some things you would like to see that are with our rights to ask and Councils authority to approve? I’ve listed a few easy wins above because they don’t cost much and they are available to most developments in and around Saskatoon.

This is not an opposition to the taxes the farmers are paying as they provide an important service to us all Many of us grew up on a farm and know how impotan their work is and how much work is involved in running these operations. And we don’t want to create a city here in the hills because we chose to move here to get away from that yet, having said that, we are entitled to some options in the services we would like available to us, even if all of us don’t want or need these services. It should be an option available to us all and we can each decide if we want it or not.

We don’t mind paying our share of taxes if we are getting some basic services in return. This has not happened in the four years we have lived here we have paid about $25k and those that have lived here longer with larger properties than ours can probably add to this total and, i’m sure more dissatisfaction to the services you have or haven’t received. And we don’t ask for much from what I can see and have heard from many of you that have attended these meetings in the past.

Some concerns we have…
Road maintenance (I believe 90% of us agree the roads and their lack of care and maintenance is horrible), we don’t have any road signs on the main grids leading into the developments so people can find us, civic addresses for emergency vehicles in case there was ever an emergency at one of our homes so the ambulance and first responders can find us that much quicker (I can’t imagine if one if our children or loved ones had an accident or became ill and the medical attendants couldn’t find our location fast enough), mailboxes for all developments (whether you wanted it or not, at least there is an option to all), regular meetings with our councillor (either annually or when asked for by a group of constituents who have concerns), and many other small but important concerns we all have.

What we’ve received so far…
from the majority of Council is borderline mismanagement of funds, conflict of interest and very questionable spending habits that haven’t evolved for decades based on the old theory of – if you want it done in your zone you run for council and when elected you make the changes in your zone that relate to your own personal benefit. This can’t happen any longer. This is not what our taxes were intended to cover or accomplish. Rather they should be part of an overall RM plan that each zone should have a voice in, be discussed openly and respectfully with your council member in a committee format of engaged constituents then brought forward into a long term plan, prepared by professional consultants, for the future development of this Rm.

This isn’t rocket science folks but Council doesn’t seems to understand how easy it can be or what steps are necessary to get us there. We have many professional people from a wide variety of skill sets in our zone that would be more than willing to share their experience if given the opportunity to be involved in these decisions.

The meeting was intended to present this and more information to the RM through our Councillor, Ryan Zdunich, and have other Councillors and the current Reeve present to hear our concerns and voice our solutions in the hope of making some long term change for everyone’s benefit. Otherwise, we sit and wish/hope/plead that changes will come but never seem to gain any traction.

We can give them some time to work with us or we vote in a new Reeve this fall who will work with us towards these solutions for the betterment of all RM residents.

Your support, voice and engaged commitment to attend these annual meetings is required where we present our collective concerns and offer solutions to these issues. We can’t do this without your input. Please give us your availability and preference for the weeks of March 1 – 13th and what times works best (ie 5-7pm or 6-8pm, etc).

We are not in charge of this however I you have the same concerns and issues. Something done together is the only way change will happen. If not, we will continue to pay high taxes with no services. Help us make this changE by committing two hours of your time to meet, voice your concerns with solutions to make change and show your support by being at these meetings.

Also, we apologize to those that find this a little too close to home for your comfort but that only goes to show that we all have feelings and what better way to address them then in an open environment where respectful dialogue is used as the catalyst for change.

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