Northeast Town staff present first draft of 2018 budget

Proposed budget includes 2.5 percent increase in the levy

LITTLE CURRENT—The Northeast Town council was presented with the first draft of the 2018 municipal budget by staff last Thursday night, reflecting a 2.5 percent increase in the levy (the amount needed to cover town operations).

“The original budget we had to bring to council had a proposed 3.68 percent increase to the levy, however we received notice that policing costs for 2018 will be down $70,000,” explained town CAO Dave Williamson. “Taking that into account, we now have a very tight budget that reflects a 2.5 percent increase, or an additional $107,945.83 that we need to raise (through taxes).”

Mr. Williamson reviewed the proposed capital budget, which included a variety of projects.

Under transportation services, the proposed capital project is to finish the connecting link portion of Highway 6 from the swing bridge to the Beer Store at a cost of $260,000, with $247,000 to come from a grant and $13,000 to come from the town’s working capital reserve (the project is conditional on receiving funding).

The proposed surface treatments, all to be funded by the Gas Tax refund, include: in Little Current, Campbell Street West at a cost of $15,000; Cockburn Street, at a cost of $20,000; in Sheguiandah, Bay Street, $22,000; in Honora, Gaida’s Side Road, $18,000; North Channel Drive, $30,000; Green Bay Road (lift and resurface/grade raise), $35,000; and Limekin Road (lift and resurface), $32,000.

The budgeted drain is the Meredith Drain at a cost of $60,000 to come from the working capital reserve. For sidewalks for 2018, staff proposed the repair of the downtown sidewalks at a cost of $8,200, reflected in the budget. Mr. Williamson noted that the bricks need to be leveled and, if not fixed, could become a liability issue.

Under public works, the replacement of the 2005 snowplow was proposed at a cost of $260,000, with $223,000 to come from the working capital reserve and $37,000 from the 2018 budget. A new sand dome in Sheguiandah was also listed at a cost of $350,000, but is conditional on the full amount accessed through a grant.

For environmental services, the replacement of the cast iron water main in Little Current is listed at a cost of $250,000, with the full amount to come from the Little Current water plant reserve, and the Little Current sewage lagoon upgrade at a cost of $3,000,000, funded on the condition of the town receiving a $1,000,000 grant, in addition to $250,000 to come from reserves and a $2,000,000 loan.

For recreational and cultural services the proposed projects include: a new pickup truck for community services at a cost of $30,000, reflected in the budget; ice plant upgrades at the recreation centre with a $200,000 price tag, conditional on the town receiving a $180,000 grant and $20,000 to come out of the working capital reserve; dehumidifier replacement at the arena and curling club, costing $100,000, conditional on the municipality receiving a $50,000 grant, and $50,000 to come from the working capital reserve; arena and curling club light upgrades at a cost of $25,000, with the project conditional on receiving $12,500 in funding, and the remainder to come from the town; dock revitalization of Piers 3, 5, and 6 at Spider Bay Marina at a cost of $400,000, with the project conditional on receiving $200,000 in funding, and the remaining $200,000 to come out of the Spider Bay Marina reserves; a clean up of the island shorelines in Ward 1, requested by residents, at a cost of $10,000 which would be fully conditional on receiving the full funding amount; for the fire department, auto extrication equipment upgrades to e-draulics, a cost of $46,000, with $30,000 conditional on funding, and the remaining $16,000 to come from the budget; and sewer back-up protection at station No. 1 in Little Current at a cost of $12,000 to the town.

There were also proposed upgrades to the ball field (field B) and the soccer field at Low Island Park at a cost of $35,000. Mr. Williamson explained that the upgrades to the baseball field would include fencing, a yellow fence guard, and safety upgrades to the dugout.

The project would be conditional on a donation from the Little Current Lions Club of $25,000 with council also to allocate funds from the Ross Blum account ($9,000). Mr. Williamson informed council that the Ross Blum account was created in memoriam for the late Mr. Blum to support kids community hockey and that it has sat unused for several years.

Mr. Williamson said that there is also an additional $7,000 in a baseball reserve that could be used towards the project.

As well, the proposed capital budget listed a new floor at the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah, and an upgrade to the painted cement floor in the exhibit area at a cost of $13,000 to the town.

Councillor Laurie Cook said that she felt that the museum project should be moved to the ‘other priorities’ list attached to the budget and only be completed if the project received 100 percent of the funding to cover the costs.

Mr. Williamson directed council’s attention to the ‘other priorities’ sheet, noting that the projects listed are important, but the funds are not currently available in the 2018 budget to complete.

These projects include: a building façade improvement to the town office at a cost of $40,000; a speed indicator sign at a cost of $6,000, a sidewalk for Hardbargain Road at a cost of $118,000; the replacement of the 2003 public works backhoe at a cost of $140,000; a community garden initiative at a cost of $14,000, a parking lot flex beam for Low Island Park, $16,000; marketing of the archaeological site at the museum, $3,145; and a bridge at the old OPP boathouse property (where the boathouse was removed, leaving a gap in the dock), $75,000.

Also included on the list was the implementation of a new integrated library system at the Little Current Public Library. Mr. Williamson explained that the library board is requesting that the $22,135 cost be paid for with $2,135 of grant money, and $10,000 from the library reserves and $10,000 from the town’s working capital reserves. He informed council that there are sufficient funds in the library reserves to cover the costs ($36,000) and staff would recommend moving the project to the capital budget if the board would agree that $20,000 to be used from the library reserve for the project.

He said that as the reserves currently sit, there would be only $76,122 left if the proposed budget was to remain as presented and the budgeted addition to the reserves for 2018 remained at $112,735.

Council was asked to review the budget and bring any questions, concerns and suggestions to staff.

Council will discuss the budget further at the November administration and finance committee meeting.