Puslinch council takes first look at 2021 capital budget

PUSLINCH – Puslinch council is proposing a $1.5-million tax levy for capital projects this year.

At the Oct. 28 budget meeting, council saw that the approved capital budget levy for 2020 was set at $1.4 million, $71,350 less than the 2021 proposed levy.

That means the estimated tax rate impact this year is a 1.66 per cent increase for capital projects, assuming that each additional $43,000 of taxes levied results in a 1% increase in township taxes.

However, after the meeting director of finance Mary Hasan confirmed changes to these numbers.

After council discussion on Oct. 28 the township will be raising a capital levy of $1.54 million which is up $98,150 or 2.28% from last year’s capital tax levy.

Hasan indicated the numbers will continue to change as the township moves through the budget process. The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 25.

Proposed projects to be funded through the $1.54 million tax levy include:

  • $7,500 for a used scissor lift for;
  • $1.4 million for the asset management discretionary reserve;
  • $10,000 for corporate information technology;
  • $1,350 for space needs analysis;
  • $7,500 for bridge and culvert inspections;
  • $30,000 for a Transportation Master plan;
  • $5,000 for storm water management pond inspections;
  • $10,000 for storm sewer inspections and cleaning; and
  • $16,000 for the Carroll Pond and Lesic Jassal municipal drain closed circuit television inspection.

The overall proposed capital budget is about $4.6 million.

Council discussed a few big-ticket items, including those that will be covered by this year’s tax levy.

Gravel Roads Improvement Discretionary Reserve

There was some confusion regarding the Gravel Roads Improvement Discretionary Reserve at the first capital budget meeting for 2021.

In the 2020 budget, council chose to contribute $114,300 to a specific fund dedicated to improving gravel roads.

However, the amount didn’t appear in the base budget for 2021.

“We as a council made a commitment to pave roads,” Mayor James Seeley said. “People in our community want roads paved, that’s why we created the separate reserve.”

He explained that his intent in 2020 was to create a program so the township has a reserve fund specifically for gravel road improvement.

He intended to have the $114,300 included in this year’s base budget, and contribute a similar amount in 2021, which would then be included in the base budget in 2022.

At the end of the third year (2022), the program would have built up enough permanent contributions that the yearly increases would cease but the base budget contributions would continue at the 2022 total until council chose otherwise.

“Without having these base-budget increases, then you constantly can only put a single amount in and it’s on the tax levy and it’s very difficult to run the program,” Seeley said.

However, councillors had different understandings of last year’s contribution.

Councillor John Sepulis said his understanding is that each year the township would contribute $114,300 to the reserve.

Councillor Matthew Bulmer said he thought the intent was to have a permanent base budget increase of 3%.

“So that you were always adding the same amount every year at a minimum,” he said.

Councillor Jessica Goyda said her understanding is that council was considering a $1-million loan to launch the gravel roads program; however, instead of incurring debt, council chose to take the equivalent yearly payments, including interest, for the would-be 10-year loan and put that into the Gravel Roads Improvement Discretionary Reserve to build it up and start resurfacing roads.

“I remain 100% committed to that because I know that’s an important thing for our residents, but my understanding was that at least for the foreseeable future we were going to be contributing that $114,000 and change every year, specifically to that reserve,” Goyda said.

While council agreed to keep last year’s contribution amount in this year’s base budget, councillors were less willing to commit to another $114,300 contribution in 2021.

Sepulis said he needed to see the total budget before he could decide on an additional $114,300 contribution.

“This COVID crisis, it’s put our residents at a disadvantage,” he said.

“I really want to minimize the tax rate increase.  I’d like to go to zero if possible.”

Councillors Sarah Bailey, Bulmer and Goyda all agreed they would look at a budget with an additional $114,300 contribution to the Gravel Roads Improvement Discretionary Reserve for 2021, but will not make a decision until they see the rest of the budget.

These changes will be reflected in the capital budget brought back to council on Nov. 25.

Municipal Class Environmental Assessment

Council chose to move $87,500 that was budgeted for a Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (EA) for municipal water/wastewater to other aspects of the capital budget to help reduce the impact of tax levy increases on taxpayers.

Staff was unable to find third party funding for the municipal class EA so the project was never completed.

Parks Master Plan phase one

Council also discussed including the Parks Master Plan phase one and back soccer field construction with a budget of about $1.3 million in this year’s capital budget.

This would take place at the Puslinch Community Centre and include:

  • soccer lighting;
  • parking lot upgrades;
  • light poles and fixtures for pathways, parking lot, shade structures;
  • paving/hard surfacing (asphalt walkways, play precinct, picnic shelter, soccer field bleacher and bench pads);
  • soft landscape (trees, shrubs, planting, sod); and
  • site furnishings (backless bench, picnic tables) and built forms (play precinct, gazebo, picnic shelter)

Also included in this budget is a $228,295 capital carry-forward item for the back soccer field construction. This project is funded through an Ontario Trillium Fund, Puslinch Minor Soccer club and cash in lieu of parkland money.

Construction must start by May 1 for funding requirements.

Sepulis asked whether the township would get grant funding for phase one of the master plan.

“So we did apply to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure program as it relates to phase one of the Parks Master Plan and phase two of the Parks Master Plan,” Hasan said.

“The province has been requesting some additional information from the township in order to determine whether the federal government will approve the project, so hopefully we’ll hear back by the end of the year whether or not we are approved for this project.”

The Parks Master Plan will be funded through:

  • cash in lieu of parkland at $195,605;
  • development charges $28,758;
  • donations $134,591; and
  • other grants $986,957.

Councillors were concerned about the donations section.

Councillor Jessica Goyda asked if there is a contingency if the township can’t raise $134,591 and councillor Matthew Bulmer asked whether the $20,000 from the Puslinch Minor Soccer Club has been secured.

Hasan said there’s still time to ensure the correct funding is secured before going ahead with the project, but she said the soccer club had indicated they can commit $20,000 to the project.

Old Morriston Ball Diamond

Another larger item in the township’s capital budget is the replacement of the lighting at the Old Morriston Ball Diamond.

The project will cost a total of $205,000 with $150,327 hopefully coming from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program for Community, Culture and Recreation.

Director of public works, parks and facilities Mike Fowler said not only were the light posts in poor condition but issues with the underground conduit, main fuse panel and discontinued light bulbs call for a full replacement of the lighting system.

The township has yet to secure the grant funding, but the province has asked for additional information.

Hasan said the township is hoping to hear by the end of the year if it was successful.

The additional funds will come from cash in lieu of parkland ($34,173) and donations ($20,500).

Council has committed that if the grant is successful, the township will go forward with the project even if community donations don’t reach $20,500.

Commercial kitchen

Fowler proposed a complete kitchen renovation at the Puslinch Community Centre for $100,000 ($90,000 from the asset management plan and $10,000 from grants.)

The renovation would include new cabinets, dishwasher, fridge, floor, bar door, bar counter and kitchen washroom.

However, council also asked staff to look into incorporating a drinking water fountain and to include a proposal to modernize the banquet facilities as part of the 2021 budget.

Pickup truck replacement

Council pre-approved staff to look into partnering with Wellington County or any lower tier municipality to purchase a ¾ tonne pickup truck for the public works department for the best price possible.

The current 2015 truck will be used by the parks department.

Hume Road railway crossing upgrades

Puslinch included $80,000 in the 2021 capital budget for Hume Road railway crossing upgrades, including raising the crossing, replacement of new rail, new asphalt apron and being the process of signalizing the crossing.

The railway is owned by Guelph Junction Railway (a City of Guelph company) but the township must contribute half the funds because it’s on a township road and the Federal Railway Act indicates that the neighbouring municipality is responsible for 50% of the costs.

The township is sending a letter to the City of Guelph asking for a possible reduction in the township contribution.

Other items

Other big-ticket items include:

  • Concession 4, from Wellington Road 32 to Sideroad 10 North, pulverize and repave ($450,000);
  • McLean Road West, from Wellington Road 46 (Brock Road) to Concession 7, pulverize and repave ($370,000);
  • McLean Road East, from Brock Road South to Winer Road, pulverize and repave ($147,854);
  • Fox Run Drive, Stormwater Management Facility ($165,000);
  • Carroll Pond and Lesic Jassal Municipal Drain, closed circuit television inspection ($16,000);
  • Gilmour culvert survey and engineering ($40,000);
  • storm sewer inspections and cleaning ($10,000);
  • Transportation Master Plan ($75,000);
  • computer equipment ($12,651);
  • corporate information technology ($10,000); and
  • marketing and branding implementation Phase 3 ($25,000).