There will be a relatively short window for newly installed councils to get up to speed on the many issues facing their townships.
Without a heavy dose of homework and extra time spent now, councils with many new faces will be stuck in deferral mode, meaning many decisions will be held over until the next meeting, pending further information. The risk associated with that way of doing business is there will be hold-ups for time sensitive projects. Important local items such as zone changes or site plans need to be acted upon relatively quickly, having already been vetted by staff. Hold-ups at the council table do not help anyone.
The same goes for large ticket items dependent on grants and deadlines.
A specific example of that is the controversial Big Lake project proposed in Puslinch Township, where the new council has made noises that it is not interested in receiving grant money for the project.
Many councillors there ran on a platform of not funding a program that they see as a benefit to gravel companies. They argue the companies should honour their obligations to rehabilitate their pits without council input – or expense.
The larger picture to that issue is the Big Lake study would take several smaller plans and create a collaborative plan of consequence for the longer term.
While the sentiment of being more prudent with taxpayer money is welcomed, the funding sources here are grants from another level of government or agency.
There truly is only one taxpayer, but that money will most surely be spent elsewhere if turned down in Puslinch. It could be argued that snubbing the Big Lake is a little like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Elsewhere, the challenges continue.
Most townships face increased debt charges as a result of reaching for the stars in the last round of infrastructure funding. Luckily, projects that were underway and at risk of not being completed by the March 31 deadline, received word that the deadline is being extended. That is good News and will take some stress out of a typically stressful time for councils trying to finish projects on time and on budget.
We remain curious where councils will spend their time once the soft capital works are completed. By soft, we mean myriad facilities that might improve quality of life for a few, but have an offsetting effect on the operating budget. Fact is, most townships continue to have infrastructure issues like roads and bridges that need attention.
Left too long, the hard infrastructure becomes a costly enterprise and municipalities will quickly fall behind – as they have in the past.
We have yet to see a budget that did not have a little fat to trim. Tax fighters who promised relief will now have a chance to roll up their sleeves and deliver. It will be interesting to see which line items get attention, but historically the capital budget suffers – and it would be a tremendous shame to see that mistake made again.