Brock Township staff and members of council nearly outnumbered residents by a 2:1 margin at a pre-budget open house in Sunderland Monday (Nov. 6) night.
The seven residents in attendance matched the seven members of council, as six members of staff took their spots around the tables. Although members of the public posed a few questions, Township Treasurer Laura Barta was sure to thank the attendees for participating in the process.
As she opened the meeting with an overview of the budget process, she noted the role of obtaining public input.
“Do we get (feedback)? Occasionally but not very often,” she said. “So thank you for being here tonight.”
Those who could not attend the meeting are invited to complete an online survey prior to Nov. 13. Any comments received at Monday’s meeting, as well as any results from the survey, will be presented to councilors during the Dec. 4 Finance Committee meeting, prior to the drafting of the budget.
While explaining the process, Barta noted the operating considerations such as “inflationary pressures,” service level expectations and limited capacity for growth, as well as provincial requirements such as changes to the Employment Standards Act and the implementation of a new minimum wage.
“Nothing seems to be going down in price, everything seems to be going up,” said Barta.
“(We are) doing anything we can to save but there’s only so much room.”
She was also eager to address increased value of grants from upper levels of government.
In addition to an overview of the budget process as a whole, those in attendance got a sneak peek at some of the items up for consideration in next week’s budget during a presentation from Works Director Nick Colucci.
Repairs to roads and bridges will once again be a focus, led by the $1.7-million reconstruction of a stretch of Thorah Sideroad.
“We were lucky to land a $1.5-million provincial grant for that project,” Colucci said.
Other projects planned include the $115,000 replacement of a culvert on Brock Road and $92,700 worth of repairs to a bridge on Laidlaw Street South.
Pending any changes, nearly $1.2 million will be spent on surface treatment and ultra-thin resurfacing of rural roads, along with more than $430,000 worth of gravel resurfacing.
Expansion of the works yard in Beaverton is pegged at $1.5 million, with the purchase of a backhoe/grader estimated at $390,000.
The Township will also set aside $158,000 for sidewalk repairs and $30,750 for parking lot repairs.
In addition to moving $300,000 into reserves for the three arenas, the first draft of the budget will likely include $80,000 for a storage building in Beaverton and $45,000 for architectural drawings for a potential expansion of the facility in Sunderland.
Colucci noted while the arenas do produce revenue, the amount is exceeded by the cost of operations.
“The revenues do not equal the expenses,” he said.
“They are less.”
The three town halls could see as much as $250,000 capital upgrades this year, though $122,000 of that figure is dependent on grants, while $50,000 is earmarked for flooring repairs and a new generator for the administration building in Cannington.
More than $50,000 worth of projects are also planned at the community halls in Manilla and Gamebridge, though nearly all of that total is dependent on grants.
One item that caught the eye of Mayor John Grant was $200,000 for creation of amphitheatre seating at the Beaverton Harbour Park.
Filling in members of council on the background of the project, Colucci said it has been included in a 20-year forecast for “five or six years” and could tie in with the ongoing Rewilding Lake Simcoe initiative at the park.
“The seating could go around the sculpture that’s being planned,” he said in an interview.
He also pointed out that just because the seating was included in the presentation, it does not mean it must be included in the 2018 budget.
Other parks projects planned next year include $80,000 for accessible playground equipment and a multi-surface playing field at MacLeod and Clare Hardy parks, as well as $30,000 for movable bleachers at the Sunderland fairgrounds and $30,000 to improve docking at the Beaverton Harbour.
The draft budget is expected to go to council in January or February, with approval likely to come sometime in March.
Fire Chief Rick Harrison is expected to present a 20-year forecast for the department during budget deliberations, including reference to a consultant’s report recommending the purchase of a new aerial unit.