ABERFOYLE – Council has received a number of updates as Puslinch works to finalize its 2020 budget.
Currently, officials are working towards a 1.51 per cent tax increase – but that depends on a number of conditions.
Presentations regarding the 2020 proposed budget were made by fire chief Luis Gomes; public works, parks and facilities supervisor Mike Fowler; and finance director Mary Hasan.
In a presentation to council on Nov. 6 Gomes said “we are proposing to keep all of our budget lines the same as 2019.
“My mindset is that there is some financial impacts or difficulties council is struggling with for 2020 and we are trying to ease that impact on council.”
Mayor James Seeley commented “we appreciate that.” He noted the fire budget does include the replacement of a rescue truck with a commercial chassis or custom cab.
CAO/clerk Patrick Moyle reminded council and the public that “this is a process.” Work began with capital budget discussions several weeks ago, he said.
“At that time, we wanted to share some of the challenges and opportunities.”
He said staff was asked to provide a “show and tell” regarding items in the asset management plan which need to be considered.
“For the most part the important thing for the public to understand is that this is a budget being built in stages,” said Moyle, who added the final budget is not expected to be approved by council until January.
He noted the township has yet to receive its updated property assessment rolls from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).
Moyle explained January is when council looks at potential revenues versus expenses and which items will be included, deleted or moved around.
He noted the fire chief had talked about the capital budget earlier and that Gomes intended to “stand pat” on its operating budget.
Councillor John Sepulis said he was impressed that staff continually finds innovative ways of finding financial resources rather than have funding come from taxpayers.
Moyle added, “I must commend the fire chief, deputy chief and finance director at being able to find other sources of revenue.”
“Mary (Hasan) finds these grant programs and applies for them, as opposed on depending on taxpayers as the first source of revenue.”
He noted her success in finding $150,000 in grant funding for the soccer fields through the Ontario Trillium Foundation – to help complete that work in a timely way.
“I am continually impressed that this staff is resourceful and find grant programs,” said Moyle.
Councillor Matthew Bulmer concurred. Gomes added these other funding sources help cover the cost of items on the capital budget list.
Fowler spoke to council regarding capital items, including the purchase of a new tandem axle truck that “should be here for the end of the 2019 season.”
He explained the truck is a demonstration unit for trade shows supplied by Viking Cives. He noted, “In kindness, they chose to let go of the unit early for us to have the opportunity to purchase it.”
Fowler said “by the township purchasing … a demonstration unit, we saved about $20,000 off the regular billed price for the 2019 season.”
He noted the truck has 17,000km on it – and that’s regular driving hours, not plowing.
“By no means should this affect the unit at all,” Fowler said. “We are looking forward to having a better truck for one of our routes; less downtime hopefully. This truck should be able to be loaded once, and do the entire route in one pass.”
He noted the township had successfully acquired three people for the department’s seasonal positions for winter.
One change in winter road maintenance this season is the township will switch from white to blue salt.
Fowler noted the County of Wellington is using blue salt. He explained the main difference is the rock salt infused with magnesium chloride which reacts faster and at lower temperatures.
“The time for melting is roughly cut in half. As soon as it hits the road, it begins to melt.”
Fowler added the reason his department approached council to make the switch is because it is what the county uses “and we rely heavily on the county for storage, order and using their front end loader to load our trucks quickly.”
Fowler added there was also a county request resulting from capacity issues and ease of ordering.
“I am confident that because of reaction/melt times, we will reduce truck time and fuel because trucks won’t have to go back onto the route as many times.”
He noted the township still has about a month’s supply of the white salt to use before moving to using the more expensive blue salt.
“We will get a very good result from the blue salt, which should drastically reduce the amount used.”
Hasan noted the township undertook a capital budget workshop on Sept. 25 and the Nov. 6 meeting pulled that information together with the proposed operating budget.
Hasan said based on current discussion the estimated tax rate impact in the 2020 proposed budget is 1.51%.
She explained this involves decreases to some expense amounts, increases to some revenue amounts, additional costs in the works budget to use the blue salt, some adjustments to salaries and benefits, and some unavoidable cost increases.
She noted additional costs could be incurred as a result of the following:
– potential tax levy increases associated with community grants. A report will be provided at a future budget meeting regarding grant requests under the 2020 grant application program;
– increases associated with the township’s municipal insurance program (including cyber insurance coverage). Frank Cowan and Jeffery and Spence will be presenting the proposed 2020 municipal insurance program at an upcoming council meeting;
– increases associated with compensation review adjustments. An amount of $49,726 has been estimated and will be finalized and incorporated in the proposed budget at a future budget meeting after the results have been presented and approved by council;
– increases associated with principal and interest repayments for a $1,000,000, 10-year debenture issued in 2020 and contingent on the results of the gravel roads study (an annual repayment amount of $114,300 has been estimated);
– increases associated with the construction of a new 140m sidewalk on the northeast side of Old Brock Road. Hasan stated staff have obtained an estimate of $100,000 for the project (she said, “it is recommended that $40,000 of the costs be funded by the Upper Grand District School Board due to the additional costs associated with the proposed sidewalk fronting on the school board property [ie. grading issues and retaining wall issues]”;
– increases associated with further phasing of the Cambridge Fire Services contract. In January council authorized staff to proceed phasing in one quarter of the costs associated with the contract.
Regarding the purchase of a replacement fire truck, staff was directed to include an Option A – custom cab chassis and Option B – commercial cab chassis in the request for tender.
Seeley said with some hard numbers in place, council could decide which direction to go.
Council directed staff to bring forward a debt management policy prior to the issuance of a $500,000 debenture.
Councillors also directed staff to establish a gravel road resurfacing discretionary reserve to address the recommendations from the gravel roads study.
It then directed staff to investigate the insurance savings of properties impacted by the Cambridge Fire Services contract.
Council directed staff to investigate the construction of the Old Brock Road a new sidewalk contingent on funding from the Upper Grand District School Board.