Since the health care community and ministry has abrogated a portion of their responsibility in recruiting and retaining health care professionals, the communities they serve have found themselves having to leap into that breach.
In Estevan that means our city council is having to put some serious thought into the prospect of adding to the mill rate to accommodate the needs associated with the growing problem of disappearing doctors, nurses and other health industry professionals within the city and immediate area.
This problem, coupled with a burgeoning need to build a new seniors' housing complex and affordable housing for a good portion of the remaining population, gives our councillors a unique dilemma.
So far the talk has centred around a half-mill levy on property taxes as one way to raise funds for medical professional recruitment and possibly have it roll out to provide financial support for a seniors' complex that will replace the aging Estevan Regional Nursing Home. The fact that the nursing home will require more community funds than the soon-to-open arena and event complex, speaks volumes about the obligations that the seniors' housing fundraising committee has taken on. A new arena and event complex is a sexy, in-your-face project that caught the imagination of the public and business community in Estevan and area. We hope that same kind of enthusiasm greets the fundraisers for the less sexy senior housing needs. Somehow we believe it will. After all, millions were raised for a new St. Joseph's Hospital 15 to 20 years ago. It's time for a repeat performance.
What council may also want to consider though, is another approach to raising the badly needed funds for health professionals and housing.
A mill rate levy is one concrete avenue, but they might also wish to consider a one per cent tax on goods and services sold locally or in lieu of that, a one per cent tax applied directly to each hospitality bill, i.e. a one per cent tax on hotel and motel room billings.
This type of revenue raising has met with success in several other centres including our nearby neighbours in North Dakota and we're willing to bet the majority of us who use their hospitality services haven't even noticed that additional tax that their citizens use to support local businesses (non-profit and for- profit) and organizations.
Council has indicated in the past that they were loath to enter into the property management and housing market, but by definition, they've been there for decades through their arranged and managed subdivision developments. There is nothing wrong with that, it's a fact of life in Estevan.
So our council could be addressing three growing problems in one fell swoop, either through a retail/hospitality/luxury tax or a mill rate levy.
Three major problems that are restricting even further growth in this city are a lack of doctors and health care professionals, affordable decent housing for the working poor and adequate and dignified accommodations for our seniors who would like to live out their remaining years among friends and families.
The discussion should be a lively one and we might suggest one that would well worth having in our council chambers.