The Township’s 2017 budget cycle has begun with a few new twists.
Borrowing for Roads
The Public Works Department has recommended that the Township borrow 11 million dollars to rebuild Sunbury and Westport Roads. These repairs and upgrades are on top of the regular roads budget of about 5 million a year.
Necessary Road Work?
One of South Frontenac’s anomalies is that all the major roads are Township roads. Their upkeep is our responsibility.
The Township has been lobbying to have 38, a regional road, taken over by the county or the province. They listen politely, but that is all. Similarly, we have asked for provincial support for Sunbury Road repairs. It is a designated Emergency Diversion Route (EDR) for Highway 401 and most damage is caused by that use. Again, no luck.
There is a compelling case that a 10% cost saving can be achieved if these roads are done all at once, rather than in short sections over many years. The result is very high costs in the year when the work is done.
One question that has been asked of public works is: can we separate the work on these roads, keeping them safe with necessary repairs, so they are not done back to back?
The proposal is also to upgrade both Sunbury and Westport Road to asphalt from tar and gravel at a significant extra cost. Is this upgrade justified by traffic volumes and projected use? The main traffic flows in the Township are north and south into Kingston, and the east west connections seem to be declining in importance.
Financing Major Projects
The financing proposal is that the Township borrow from Infrastructure Ontario, which in turn borrows on the international capital market. The current interest rate charged by Infrastructure Ontario is 2.74% for a 25 year loan.
One question that needs to be asked is, why we are borrowing when we have 14 million dollars in Township reserves which have been saved to pay for major projects like these?
The Township currently earns about 2.0% on the long-term part of its investments: less on the short-term investments. Taking a straight comparison on 11 million dollars that would be a loss of at least 75 thousand a year.
The Treasurer said we would be paying 3.7 million dollars in interest on the loan: that is money sent to lenders outside the Township, when we could keep much of that money in the Township by repaying the equivalent of interest and capital back into the reserves. This alternative is being explored.
Roads Budget 5% Increase
The roads budget is projected to increase by 5% a year, which includes the loan repayment. Council has given initial direction to staff to increase the Township tax rate by 2.2%. If nothing else changes these two figures, a 5% percent increase in roads and a 2.2% increase in taxes, would mean significant cuts in our other expenses: facilities, energy retrofits, recreation, planning, fire, poverty reduction, administration, bylaw enforcement.
So far we have been able to avoid this problem because increases in property values (MPAC assessments) and new development have usually increased our Township budget by over 6% a year. If either development slows or property values drop and we owe significant sums to external sources, we will have a serious financial problem in the Township.
Tell Council Your Budget Ideas
Council, for the first time, is inviting residents to comment on the full draft budget. The 2017 draft budget will be public on November 1 with public deputations heard on November 8. Take a look at it. We would love to hear your views on where the Township should be spending money, what expenditures are a waste, and what do you think of the overall approach.
Those interested in presenting to Council are encouraged to contact the Clerk’s office at Extension 2222. Alternatively, written submissions may be forwarded to the Clerk’s Office: email@example.com.
697 residents completed the Recreation Survey. Congratulations it was a great response. The results are available in the September 27 Committee of the Whole agenda, item 7a, or I can send them to you. They are being considered by the Recreation Committees for future action.
Despite Council and staff efforts Sydenham’s beer store is closing. On a positive note, the Point Restaurant has opened and is being very well used.
The site for the new Perth Road Fire Hall has been finalized and discussion has begun on what to build.
Plans are underway for a Township wide Canada 150 celebration at Centennial Park. There is an organizational meeting Wednesday, October 12. Everyone is welcome.