Hello everyone, and a belated Happy New Year to those of you that I haven`t already seen on the trails or in Nesters!
Tomorrow is a very busy day for council members ...
CAPITAL BUDGET FOR 2010
Tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., we start work on the capital budget for 2010. This is an open, public meeting -- you are welcome to attend. You can see the agenda package for this meeting at this link:
You probably know this, but for those who might be new, I`ll just mention that operating budget (the budget we worked on in November and December) covers the day-to-day workings of the organization (items such as salary, heating the buildings, running the transit system, etc). Capital budget is about the projects that create or renew long-term assets for the town (items such as the rec centre project, major road or utility projects, etc.)
We have a huge challenge in the capital budget this year. That`s because our budget was built with the understanding that the province would be supplying around $4.7 million to the town`s capital budget each and every year until 2016, through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative. This was not just a careless assumption -- it was based on many assurances from the province that this money was a commitment. However, with the econonmic downturn, this commitment has, unfortunately, been one of the areas where the provice has made changes. At present, the word is that we can expect $2.6 million per year until 2019, leaving us with a $14.7 million shortfall in the first seven years.
I voted for borrowing for the main part of the rec centre project with the understanding that we would be paying back the debt each year using the provincial MSI money. Now the money has been reduced, but we are far enough into the project that cancellation is not an option, and the debt, of course, will remain. This is the very situation I wanted to avoid -- the situation where the ability of future councils to do necessary work was limited by the borrowing of past councils. It is painful to know that I helped to create this situation through my vote.
Administration has worked very hard to present a capital budget that still works within these constraints, but they are cautioning us about how they have had to stretch the expected lifespan of various assets to do it. As the council process continues, we will be looking for any additional ways to cover our debts, while still doing the work necessary to keep the town`s assets in good shape. I will be asking whether there are any cuts still available on the rec centre project -- whether we could, for example, re-visit council`s decision to add an extra area of changerooms and offices, or whether we could cut the expenses connected with the LEED certification process. While it`s important to do the work to make buildings environmentally responsible, I`m not convinced that it`s necessary to pay out tens of thousands to have paper certification exercise completed, and think that we may need to re-visit the council policy that says we must do this. I`d like to hear your thoughts on this -- if we do the work, do we still need to pay for the certification.
You can see the entire agenda package for Monday`s meeting by clicking on this link:
You are welcome to attend this public meeting, which starts at 2 pm. Here are a few highlights:
Snow and Ice Management Update
Starting on page 18 of the package, you`ll find an interesting report on the various alternatives that the Town has tested for de-icing. Using a mix of traction granules and CaMgAcetate in key areas helps protect water quality, diminish corrosive effects on metal and concrete, and is better for plants.
Sidewalk seating and cafe policy
The pilot project last summer was a success, and council is being asked to approve the policy going forward, with a few minor changes. You can see the report starting on page 30 of the agenda package.
Community greenhouse project
I`m often asked how this is going -- the answer is that lots has been happening. A concept for the design has been chosen, some of the money has been raised (and more grant applications are out there), and a site on the Rec grounds is proposed. You can read the whole report (and see the pictures!) starting on page 61 of the council package.
BHC WORKING GROUP
I will round off my day tomorrow with a third meeting -- the housing working group, starting at 7 pm. This is an open public meeting, and you`re welcome to attend! This committee is attempting to build consensus recommendations, and the discussion is always lively. Key items on the agenda will include working on recommendations about whether the BHC should increase their holdings of apartment style units, whether they should invest money in tracking rental rates and rental construction, and whether they should offset some operating costs by creating a portfolio of rental properties themselves.