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Township in ‘uncharted territory’ with budget, infrastructure needs

Township in ‘uncharted territory’ with budget, infrastructure needs

by Olivia Rutt

KENILWORTH - Wellington North is dealing with an unprecedented number of infrastructure projects in 2018, raising an issue with the township’s ability to complete the projects this year.

On March 5 council had its first peek at the 2018 budget, which includes $12.8 million for capital projects.

The capital budget, which was pared down by staff from an $18.7-million capital ask, included five roads, sewer and water projects related to development; as well as four bridge construction projects, four engineering projects, four road reconstruction projects and 10 resurfacing projects.

Mayor Andy Lennox called this “uncharted territory” for the township.

“We’ve been ramping up our capital spending because we needed to renew what we have, plus now we’re getting this growth push,” he said.

Adam McNabb, director of finance, said the number of projects will have an impact on staff.

“I think we’re going to hit an infliction point in terms of what kind of capacity we have just from a resource stand point,” he said.

Lennox said the township will need to consider ways to deal with capacity, either by hiring new staff or hiring outside help.

“Based on the number of applications we have, the development activity is not going down, and I don’t sense there’s an appetite to turn developers away,” he said.

CAO Mike Givens suggested looking into the feasibility of a capital management position in addition to the current search for the director of operations.

“It’s new territory for us as a township to have this much work looming that’s outside of renewal,” he said.

Givens added the township hasn’t been prepared as much to deal with the growth, instead focusing on renewal of infrastructure.

The current tax levy proposal is to increase the capital levy by 35.1 per cent to $2,953,400 over last year, decrease operating budget to $4,407,711 (or 4.4%), and increase transfers to reserves to $518,466 (173%).

The total levy would increase by 12.8% to $7,879,577 in 2018.

These numbers are expected to be reviewed before the next budget meeting on March 12.

“To me, the issue is we’ve collected taxes to complete projects to deliver services to our residents, we shouldn’t collect taxes that we can’t deliver the services through,” said Lennox of the $2.2 million in reserve transfers from uncompleted 2017 capital projects.

“I think we’re on a good path. I’d like to see us stay the course, but if we can’t find a way to do those projects, I can’t in all conscience ask the taxpayer to pay more. To me that’s a much bigger issue than what the levy increase is.”

Councillor Sherry Burke agreed.  

“I think that there are a lot of good projects, but what can we get done reasonably in 2018?” she asked. “We can’t increase (taxes) and not spend the dollars; I think that’s where our residents and taxpayers get upset.”

Lennox asked councillors if the town needs to invest in order to accommodate growth.

“We’re in uncharted territory for this municipality. We’ve never before been in this position where we’re trying to renew infrastructure and accommodate growth that I believe that is going to increase,” he said.

Councillor Steve McCabe said, “This is all without Arthur (wastewater) being online too. So I think we have to be prepared to invest.”

Givens said council should consider filling the gap.

“We maybe need to step back from our capital budget as proposed, focus on completing the projects that we talked out in 2017, and take the time to assess ... filling the capacity gap, so in 2019, 2020, 2021, we’re prepared to deal with an $18 million budget - because right now we’re not,” he said.  

Givens suggested staff pare down the capital budget to no more than what was spent in 2017 and look into ways to address the capacity issue through reserve transfers.

Council agreed, setting the next round of budget talks for March 12.

Highlights for the proposed capital budget include council chamber technology upgrades, repairs at four municipal buildings, four bridge construction projects, four engineering projects, four full-reconstruction road projects, 10 resurfacing projects and seven parks and recreation projects.

March 9, 2018


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