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A first look at big ticket items for 2018

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

As councillors get their first look at the more than $22 million in capital projects needed for 2018, it comes right alongside a nearly equal number of items that are getting pushed down the line due to lack of dollars.

On Dec. 11, council got its first glimpse of the 2018 capital budget during its first meeting ahead of deliberations in January.

Included in the capital budget are $22,929,000 worth of projects, including $7.7 million in work for development related roads, $4.1 million in buildings and equipment, $3 million in roads, and $1.8 million in vehicles and equipment.

Among the specific items to be purchased include $250,000 for a PA system at city hall, $100,000 for a carbon monoxide alarm upgrade in city facilities, $190,000 in security technology replacement and $1.6 million in fleet acquisitions.

The biggest chunk of money to pay for the capital budget comes from the city’s reserves and development charge funds ($16,060,000) with the remaining funding sources being gas tax dollars ($4.6 million), and tax levy ($2 million).

The proposed capital projects are $11 million less than what was proposed in 2017, mostly due to limited funding, and the lack of capacity for staff to complete certain items. This has caused a growing number of projects to be pushed ahead to later years.

While council eventually referred all the items to budget deliberations in January, Councillor John Neal was more concerned with the items that weren’t on the list, and the approximately $20 million in projects that have been pushed ahead to later years, pointing to certain items that staff have noted as beyond their useful life, but are being delayed anyway.

“It’s important to note that prescribed useful life of an asset is just a testament of its lifespan,” said Stephanie Sinnott, the city’s executive director of finance services and treasurer. “Staff regularly evaluate these projects and ensure that they are maintained.

Among the deferred items are $9.8 million in roadwork, $6.5 million in sidewalks, $1.3 million in bridge work, and $1.5 million in buildings and equipment.

These items are part of an updated infrastructure deficit totalling $448 million in projects that will be required between 2019 and 2027.

As part of budget deliberations, staff are recommending that the one per cent infrastructure levy put in place by council last year be increased annually by 0.1 per cent. The levy is an additional one per cent on top of the tax levy each year with the funds being put directly toward infrastructure.

As part of the capital budget, city council also approved approximately $8.1 million in time-sensitive items, which will go to tender in early-2018.

The city’s operating budget will be presented to councillors on Dec. 15, with the deliberations set to begin in the new year. Members of the public will have the opportunity to share their thoughts on the budget during a public meeting slated for Jan. 8.