Erin provides in-principle support of $4-million capital budget

Erin council has offered preliminary approval of a $4.04-million capital budget.

The document, approved in-principle at a special meeting on Dec. 15, includes incurring $1.2 million in debt and $885,800 in property tax revenue.

The capital budget can still be refined and must be officially passed in a bylaw in the new year. Council still needs to work on the operating budget.

Mayor Allan Alls wanted council to approve the budget earlier than normal so the town does not lose out on tenders.

“I think it is absolutely necessary that by the year-end we have a good idea where our money is going to be spent in the year to come, as we realized last year when were so late to tender that we lost out on,” said Alls said during the first round of budget discussion on Nov. 10.

“Unfortunately a lot of decisions have been pushed off and pushed off for far too long and certainly this council I’m pretty sure is committed, as much as it is hard to swallow, we’ve got to get going,” he added.

In a council meeting on Dec. 1, Alls asked financial analyst Larry Wheeler to come back to the final rounds of discussion with only a one-year plan.

“I would like to narrow our capital deliberations down to one year right now so we can get under way and get that done and go through our operating budget in January then come back and revisit the five-year plan,” he said.

During the special meeting on Dec. 15, Wheeler explained the impact of the capital budget on taxpayers is about a one per cent increase over last year. That amount could change once council discusses the operating budget in January.   

General government

Council has set aside $144,000 for capital projects in the general government category, reduced from the initial amount of $197,000. Projects include $2,500 for an entrance sign at the municipal office, and $50,000 for renovations of the office building.  

Council decided to cut the green energy conservation plan project and the telephone system project for 2016. The funds for general government projects will almost solely be funded by property taxes.

Fire and emergency

The capital budget for the fire department was cut in half during budget considerations.

Originally, Fire Chief Dan Callaghan asked for $841,000 for 2016 for a custom pumper rescue truck, radio upgrades, an expansion at the Erin village fire hall and replacing a 1990 tanker.

The fire services portion of the budget was approved for $317,000, knocking off most of the projects and a further cut to the custom truck.

Callaghan said the fire department has allocated money in 2015 for the custom truck to replace the 1986 truck they currently use and was asking for another allocation in 2016. Council asked Callaghan to work with $257,000, about $100,000 less than what was requested.

“I’m inclined to say here’s your budget, go out and meet it,” said Alls.

“If it’s council prerogative to cut $100,000, obviously I’m going to try to meet that target but I understand that if it does go over, I will be coming back to you,” said Callaghan.

“That one vehicle is about 30 per cent of the $2.3 million brand new Hillsburgh fire hall. It’s a substantial chunk of change,” said councillor Jeff Duncan.

However, Callaghan added, that is the reality of fire service.

“I can’t get around those realities … council can be guaranteed that I’m going to spend your money wisely and not spend it foolishly, but at the same time I have to think about a 25-year purchase,” he said.


Council has approved a budget of almost $2.4 million for the roads department. Major projects include $250,000 for sidewalk construction from Ross Road to Tim Hortons in the village of Erin, $774,000 for rural reconstruction of Sideroad 17, and $700,000 for Erin’s share of the Winston Churchill bridge replacement (shared with Caledon) which Wheeler said should be financed by debt.

“We should use debt financing because if the road is ever turned into a commuter road, upper tier will come back and pay (it) off,” he said.

Council had earlier deferred the $2.4 million Station Street bridge rehabilitation project until 2017, leaving $50,000 in 2016 for the engineering portion of the bridge.

Alls explained in an earlier budget meeting in November the town could not start construction on the bridge until 2017, but would require money in 2016 for work on design.

Alls said he expects the EA to be available early in 2016, but then the design work would not be able to go out for tender until the summer, making it impossible to start construction until the following year.

“We would probably borrow money for it because that’s a long-term solution … There’s still a public meeting … when the EA comes out,” said Alls.


Erin’s water department introduced its capital plan to council on Dec. 15.

Wheeler explained water is paid for by each user so the capital budget of $346,500 is not going to affect the rates because “we’ve agreed on rates for five years.”

The biggest expenditure is the reconstruction of the water-main under Church Street in Erin village. Interim water superintendent Joe Babin, who estimated the cost to be $490,000, asked for deferral of the project because council had previously deferred the road department’s $290,000 portion to 2017.

“We’d have to defer it, because we couldn’t do it alone. We have to work with roads on this,” said Babin.

Deferring means another two winters with the risk of damage to the watermain in this area.

Councillor Matt Sammut asked if sewers will play a part in this and asked what the point would be in ripping up the road to fix the watermain if sewers would come shortly after.

CAO Kathryn Ironmonger warned council against that thinking.

“Realistically, this is the street that we’re having issues with…. we’ve been sitting for so many years waiting on the sewers, I think realistically, we’re not going to be able to do all the roads all at the same time and we are definitely having issues with that road,” said Ironmonger.

Councillor John Brennan echoed her concerns, saying “Four years ago we were saying the same thing, ‘we wont do this because we’ll be tearing up the roads in a couple of years’.”

Alls agreed adding, “because we deferred the roads that’s what we’re doing is gambling a little bit council.” He added council should defer the water portion of this project as well.


Council approved $412,800 for the recreation department for 2016. The budget included accessibility renovations for the Hillsburgh Community Centre, chairs for the Erin Community Centre, playground equipment that is partially paid for by the Canada150 grant, and a new pick up truck.

The recreation department is currently sharing a truck with the roads department so parks and recreation manager Graham Smith asked for $56,000 for a new truck.

“I know it’s definitely something that we need. Now if we’re looking at saving money, my feeling would be the current truck we have will do a certain job for what we need to do and we can put that truck into 2017… The one that we have right now can do sufficient what we need but of course will it do everything that we need? No,” said Smith. “At a certain point it’s not going to go into the next year.”

Brennan said he wanted to solve this issue this year.

“We’ve (deferred) year after year after year and while it solves this moment’s problem, it compounds next year’s problem. And so if we can get this down to where we can get something that we need within a reasonable level this year than I think we ought to try to do that,” said Brennan.

Sammut said he was hoping to eliminate the truck completely. “At some point, I’m hoping we’ll all get our minds around the fact that we’re a small town and our taxes have been going up dramatically. When you’re a small town, you just can’t have everything we may want,” he said.

Alls suggested putting a dollar figure of $30,000 on it and let staff figure out how to stay within that budget. Council agreed.

Economic development

The economic development department, headed by new economic development officer Robyn Mulder was seeking approval for $86,300 for a walking trail and for the Erin Rotary river walk.

Until recently, the river walk was planned to be completely funded by the Ontario Trillium Fund, but the application was denied.

Mulder said she reduced the amount she’s asked for to $30,000 for that project.

“Can we do anything worthwhile doing (with that amount)?” asked Brennan.

“We still think this is a high priority project that can benefit the town that’s why we came up with the $30,000,” said Mulder, adding there are other partners that have not been approached yet.  

Sammut said he wanted to defer the project.

“But reality is, without funding for it, in some capacity, it may never happen… you can spend this money and we’re not going to see bang for our buck for a while, if ever. Could we defer it a year?” he said.

“The feasibility study has to come before we ask for capital money, which is why Bob (Cheetham) wanted to do it now, again it’s all in the process,” said Mulder. “The waterway through here needs a big clean up, that’s all part of it … It’s about looking at what we have here and beautifying it and making it nice so people actually use it again.”