Northeast Town council reviews first draft of 2015 municipal budget

LITTLE CURRENT—The Northeast Town council reviewed the first draft of the proposed 2015 municipal budget last week.

Northeast Town CAO Dave Williamson walked council through the proposed draft, starting first with the operating budget

Mr. Williamson explained to council that staff are predicting that the municipality will start the year with a deficit due to the reduction in Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) funding, a raise in operating costs such as hydro, as well as other factors.

“We have a fixed contract with a three percent increase for staff wages,” Mr. Williamson further explained. “We have also had a severe reduction in OMPF funding from last year, in addition to municipal insurance being up $21,000.”

Mr. Williamson explained that areas staff had cut last year to reduce costs, while still remaining the same level of services, hadn’t worked out as planned.

“Last year we reduced the road maintenance budget, but this just didn’t work and we ended up having to go over in order to maintain service,” Mr. Williamson told council. “We also didn’t have enough budgeted for sand and salt and had to go over (the budgeted amount). Hydro is another cost that we know will be increasing this year.”

Due to all these factors, Mr. Williamson explained to council that staff is recommending a $209,409.98 increase over last year’s budget or 5.76 percent.

Next Mr. Williamson reviewed the recommended additions to reserves which came in at $918, noting that more would be better, but that due to increases in the budget, $918 was all that staff were recommending.

Lastly, Mr. Williamson reviewed the proposed capital budget of $125,500 based on council’s strategic plan for 2015-2018.

Among the items is a new municipal website coming in at $20,000 and the grading and raise of Bass Lake Road, White’s Point Road and Rockville Road and a dig out of Honora Bay Road, which would have no cost to the town and instead would be done utilizing the gas tax refund for the $84,000 in total projects.

Also on the list was the building of bike lanes from the Little Current swing bridge to Walcot Street in Little Current, with hopefully $80,000 coming from a grant for the project and the remaining $20,000 of the $100,000 coming from municipal reserves. Mr. Williamson noted that the bike lanes, as well as other items of the capital budget, are contingent on grants and would not happen in 2015 unless the funding came through.

Streets and roads up for surface treatments, to be completed with gas tax revenue, include Vankoughnet Street and Low Island Park in Little Current, Dunlop Street to the Government Dock in Sheguiandah and the Green Bush gully.

Street lighting, which council identified as a priority, is also reflected in the budget at a cost of $4,000.

Another big ticket item is the public works bulldozer at $150,000 to be taken from the working capital reserve.

Mr. Williamson explained that historically the gas tax refund was used for equipment, but due to new restraints with the funding, the money is no longer able to be spent on equipment, leaving staff to shift the funds and allot them to roadwork, taking the money historically removed from reserves for roadwork and moving it to equipment.

He also noted that the new bulldozer would have an attachment allowing the machine to replace two dated pieces of equipment at the municipal landfill, the bulldozer and the BOMAG.

Proposed drain work for 2015 includes the Ashley Drain at $56,000, to be taken from the working capital reserve, the Meredith Street Drain, also to be taken from the working capital reserve at $65,000, and the Jefferey Drain at $28,000, to be taken from the working capital reserve.

Conditional on grants, the town hopes to receive $300,000 for a sand dome at the public works site in Sheguiandah and a salt shed in Little Current at $50,000.

Coming from the Little Current water reserve is $200,000 towards the total cost of watermain replacements (cast iron) in Little Current. The $1,174,500 project is conditional on a $974,500 grant, however the Northeast Town recently advanced to the second phase in the applied grant selection process.

Under recreation and cultural services in the capital budget, floor replacement in the dressing room, hallway and washrooms of the Little Current Recreation Centre is budgeted at $50,000 with the municipality hoping to obtain $20,000 of the project through grants, while the remaining $30,000 is budgeted from the town.

Also in line with council’s strategic plan are four or five new benches budgeted at $5,000, $3,500 on trees and $1,840 to regravel the Low Island Park trail. As well, $25,000 towards developing the archaeological site in Sheguiandah which would go towards a trail, fencing in the area, promotional materials and a smartphone tour of the area.

At no cost to taxpayers is $20,000 towards a new roof for the Little Current Public Library which will be taken from the library receives, but hinges on receiving $25,000 in funding to complete the $45,000 project.

Also on the budget is the replacement of the pier five dock at Spider Bay Marina and upgrading to LED lighting. The $180,000 new dock and $15,000 lighting upgrade are both conditional on grants. If the grant requests are successful for $140,000 and $7,500, the remaining $40,000 and $7,500 would be taken from the marina’s reserves.

The final large item on the capital budget is $37,160 on new turnout gear for the Little Current Fire Department, which staff explained listed as ‘crucial.’ The budget also reflects $2,500 to be taken out of Ward 1’s fire reserves for training residents on the use of the new pumps the municipality previously purchased for the ward.

Mr. Williamson requested that council review the proposed budget further and meet with him or town treasurer Sheryl Wilkin for clarifications or suggestions.

Council scheduled its next budget review meeting for Tuesday, January 13 at 7 pm.