City set to tackle capital budget
The City of Woodstock officially begins its budget proceedings Thursday, starting with an overview of the capital budget for the coming year.
The initial presentation of the capital budget – a proposed $29.5 million for 2019 – will provide an opportunity for councillors to ask questions and make suggestions. “We go program by program to see what the ‘ask’ is and we look at any special one-time items that are large ticket,” Mayor Trevor Birtch said. “There’ll be give and take throughout the process.” Woodstock’s revenue fund budget – essentially the city’s operational costs – will be presented to council in mid-February.
Woodstock budgets are presented as part of a five-year plan, with only the immediate year being approved by council while the remaining four years are a forecast of what to expect.
“It allows us to smooth out and plan projects better (than) if we were doing it year by year,” Woodstock CAO David Creery said.
The proposed capital budget will see a jump of nearly $13 million from $16.5 million last year after carrying an average of $22 million from 2015 to 2017. Creery said the bulk of this increase comes from the roughly $10 million needed for phase 2 of the Patullo Road project to service the land for industrial use.
“The city’s been very successful in selling its vacant land for industrial development. You’ll see lots of development activity in all of our industrial parks. More than 40 acres of land was sold in 2018, and we’re getting low on inventory,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to move on to the servicing of the next land. It’s a big project being put forward. … The city needs more vacant industrial land to market to new industries and businesses that will create new jobs. This is important.” Birtch said a main emphasis of council will be making Woodstock as attractive as possible for businesses, helping to grow employment in the Friendly City. “Previous councils have been aware of this need and this new council as well. I spoke about it in the inaugural address that servicing employment land and continuing work to attract new employment is something we have to work on right away,” he said.
A proposed increase in road infrastructure will see a jump to $4.5 million while a new city maintenance building near Cowan Fields is pegged at $900,000 and the city’s engineering office expansion is estimated at $850,000.
“People see we’ve been working hard to make improvements to all the roads. It’s doesn’t happen with a flash,” Birtch said. “It means detours and inconveniences but, once it’s done, people see it’s an investment for the entire community.”
Other key projects proposed in the capital budget are the second phase of the library’s masonry restoration at $550,000 – the front entrance was done about five years ago – and the rehabilitation of the 71-year-old Lions Pool mechanical and basin at $900,000.
It allows us to smooth out and plan projects better (than) if we were doing it year by year.”
Woodstock CAO David Creery
An additional recycling truck is also in the proposed plan at a price tag of $275,000, with Birtch saying council has heard from citizens about increased recycling. The extra truck would help the city towards that goal, he said.
The city’s new agreement with the Upper Thames River Conservation Area has also seen them propose $440,000 for a dam crossing. “Having the new agreement in place means we’ll be busy working on bringing the facilities up to city standards and developing a new trail,” Birtch said. “I think this is something the community’s been really looking forward to.” To finance the proposed budget, $8.4 million would come from reserves and reserve funds, with $4.625 million coming from Oxford County’s sewer water rates and $3.8 million from revenue. A further $2.65 million is from debt and $1.98 million from grants or funding programs, leaving $8 million in funding to be determined.
“We propose the projects and the financing and it’s put into council’s hands,” Creery said. “They’ll review it Thursday night page by page in detail with staff on hand to answer any questions.”