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Budget 2018

This week, Council will be going into budget deliberations. You can see what we will be talking about by clicking here. Right now, this is all the information I have about most budget lines- we will be getting more information throughout the week.

The big thing Council will be discussing: phases 3 and 4 of the Downtown Rehabilitation project. I am working on a long blog post which I plan to post later today or early tomorrow. I’d suggest we save discussion about Downtown until I post that.

For operational spending, Council will be presented with three potential budgets. The recommended budget represents a target of a 4.3% tax increase (a $12/month implication to average tax payers). There is also a 3% target increase ($8.50/month) and a 0% target increase. At this point, I have the top level department numbers for what these budgets look like. But I need to wait until Thursday to see what the actual service plans are with these budgets.

We are also looking at the capital budget. I’m open to your input on any line. But I am especially looking for thoughts on the following two items- I am still coming to my own conclusions about them.

Train Whistles: $80,000 is recommended for a Railway Crossing Audit. This would create a detailed report which is the first step to upgrading crossings so that train whistles are no longer needed. My current understanding is that this report will include detailed cost estimates. It is also my understanding that these estimates are likely to be a couple hundred thousand dollars per crossing. The audit funding would come from our Future Expenditures Reserve which means it wouldn’t directly increase taxes. However, upgrading crossings will be expensive. I don’t want to pay for the audit if there isn’t strong appetite for funding these upgrades.

Performing Arts Facility Business Plan: $200,000 from the Future Expenditures Reserve is also recommended to pay for the development of a business plan for the proposed Performing Arts Facility. Here is what I said about projects like this in my campaign: “the time is not right for a new Big Shiny Project. However, there will be times in the future when they are appropriate. We need to ensure that these future projects access all the regional, provincial, and federal funding possible. Establishing this funding can take many years. It also requires plans and business cases. Depending on a specific proposal and on the City's overall budget, I could support funding these types of reports. I do not support our next Council committing to a new BSP. I may support it setting up future Councils to consider one.” At this point, I have no intention of voting for breaking ground on a Performing Arts Facility during the current term. However, I am considering voting to lay the groundwork for future Councils to consider it.

I am putting a lot of thought into these upcoming budget deliberations. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let me know what you think. And be sure to check back for my post on Downtown Rehabilitation.