October 31, 2012

Five year capital budget makes sense for Town

As published in The Erin Advocate

It is surprising that Erin Town Council has not yet adopted a process of looking five years ahead in allocating money for roads, bridges, buildings, water infrastructure, recreation facilities and major equipment.

They should heed the advice of their new Chief Administrative Officer Frank Miele (and Treasurer Sharon Marshall) and set a five year capital budget, moving the Town into a modern model of financial management.

"Five year plans are a mainstream in municipal government today," said Miele, at last week's council-staff working meeting – probably the last such gathering, since he has a new meeting process in mind as well.

"To some degree they are requested by the provincial government, whenever there are infrastructure projects. So I strongly recommend to council that we work towards approving not necessarily the actual amounts, but approving the concept of a five year capital budget process.

"I think it's a good opportunity for council to understand where we want to be heading. It provides a guide as to where most of our financial resources will be allocated."

Treasurer Sharon Marshall presented a five year plan to council last year, but only the 2012 section was approved.

"We've asked for some commitments in the future, to make a sustainable path," she said.

Of course, there has been forecasting for capital needs, with money being set aside in reserves for major expenditures. But for department heads, any project not approved in one year would have to be pitched again in the next year, and sometimes for many years.

There's a big difference between a project sitting on a wish list and a project that has been evaluated, debated and scheduled to be done in a certain year. Politicians will still have the option of moving things around in case of emergencies, but there will be less chance that essential work will be allowed to fall by the wayside.

Presentation of the first draft of the 2013-2018 Capital Budget last week effectively launched the 2013 budget process. Here are some highlights of what departments may purchase in the next few years.

General Government: $20,000 every year for hardware and software and $25,000 for a new roof on the municipal offices in 2015.

Fire and Emergency Services: In 2013, finishing the Hillsburgh firehall for $150,000, a firehall generator at $50,000 and replacement of a 1986 pumper truck at $235,000. In every year there would be vehicle replacement costs from $200,000 to $320,000.

In 2013, $136,000, the first of five equal installments for a bridge on Winston Churchill, $375,000 to replace a Cedar Valley culvert, $175,000 to reconstruct part of 17 Sideroad (more to be done each year), $59,000 to resurface part of 1st Line and $318,000 as the first installment in a three year plan to pulverize and resurface 2nd Line.

Bridge replacements include Station Road for $2.6 million in 2014, on 4th Line for $664,000 in 2015, on 8th Line (at 17 Sideroad) for $860,000 in 2016, and on 2nd Line for $532,000 in 2017. In 2013, two graders to be replaced at $300,000 each. In 2017, a new salt shed at $316,000.

In 2013, the Hillsburgh pumping station is expected to cost $760,000, while repairs, upgrades and re-coating of the water tower (interior and exterior) will cost $280,000. Well house replacement and improvements in 2014 are set at $450,000.

Environment and Planning: a possible $100,000 per year for the next three years related to the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP), and in 2014, a $50,000 Traffic Pattern Study.

Hillsburgh Community Centre:
Replacing the second half of the hockey boards for $75,000 in 2013, a new score clock for $12,000 in 2014, refrigeration upgrades for $115,000 in 2015, a new ice resurfacer for $90,000 in 2016, and structural upgrades for $89,500 in 2017.

Erin Community Centre:
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades are planned at $30,000 for each of 2014 and 2015, plus $90,000 for new arena lobby flooring in 2015. The tennis courts may need resurfacing at $40,000 and repaving the Centre 2000 parking lot could cost $75,000, both in 2014.  A publicly accessible playground could cost $100,000 in 2017.

Hillsburgh Parks:
Night lighting on an additional soccer field – $80,000 in 2013, paving the driveway and parking lot – $75,000 in 2016, and ball diamond night lighting – $80,000 in 2017.