The 2018 budget discussions have begun. Staff presented some “high level” considerations for next years budget and for the Township’s financial situation over the next 10 years. Both reports can be found in the September 19th Council agenda, item 8(c).
The largest capital expense over the next 10 years is $7 million to upgrade Road 38. It has become clear, after years of trying, that the province is very unlikely to take over maintaining 38. South Frontenac will stay one of the few Townships that has to maintain all of the public roads within its boundaries. The initial proposal is that reserves will be used to fund most of the Road 38 work: a positive step which avoids either borrowing money or significantly raising taxes.
Other large items include $1.5 million for intersection redevelopment, $1.5 million to enhance recreational facilities and $1 million for a new library in Verona.
The roads capital budget also recommended no gravel roads be hard topped for the next 5 years. I have asked for a priority listing of gravel roads needing a hard surface and the relative costs of maintaining gravel roads compared to hard topped roads.
The proposed long range financial plan assumes a budget increase of 2% a year. However, the roads budget would increase by 5% a year. Included in these assumptions are a new fire hall every three years at a cost of $1.5 million each; new administrative offices in 2022, $2.75 million; and improvements to the Keely Road public works facilities in 2019, $1.5 million. These costs are on top of ongoing investments in buildings, parks, fire and rescue services, planning, new staff, OPP station upgrades and general administration of the Township.
Council had a wide-ranging discussion on the validity of these assumptions and directed staff to come back with a 2018 budget proposal and revised long-range plan that keeps tax increases at 2% and maintains reserves at 10 million dollars: current reserves are approximately $15 million.
Council is just beginning the 2018 budget process. If you have any comments on any of these proposals please send them along. Council will hear delegations from the public on specific items in the budget, or the Township’s overall financial direction, on November 7. A full draft budget will be available the week before.
Endings – Finally
For the better part of two years Council has considered the assumption of non-public roads, the regulation of outdoor wood burning furnaces and the use of social media. In September Council passed bylaws on all these issues.
It has never been clear under what conditions, if any, non-assumed public roads and right-of-ways could be assumed by the Township for full maintenance as pubic roads. There is now a process.
The policy states that if a series of conditions are met the Township will assume right of ways. The main conditions are that the road be brought up to Township standards, the section to be assumed must be connected to a public road and any sections of the road not owned by the Township must be transferred to the Township at no cost.
Outdoor Wood Burning Furnaces
A bylaw regulating outdoor wood burning furnaces was passed that sets minimum setbacks from neighboring buildings, restricts their use in the summer time, gives Council authority to act if a furnace is considered to “unreasonably interfere with another individuals use and enjoyment of their property”, and prohibits their use in hamlets. Existing outdoor furnaces in hamlets can be replaced if they meet the setback requirements. The full bylaw is item 10(a) in the September 5 Council agenda.
Council and staff have entered the social media age. Council passed a social media policy which will establish an official South Frontenac Facebook page and twitter account to send out information to the public. Watch for them and join.
All three bylaws, road assumptions, social media and outdoor furnaces, are initial attempts are regulating these areas. Changes can be made when we see how these provisions work in practice.