SCUGOG: Scugog councillors have spent the last week-and-a-half reviewing the wants and need of municipal departments, in preparation for the beginning of 2015 budget deliberations.
Over the course of four meetings, the last of which was held on the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 9, councillors went through the budget draft line-by-line, advising staff to report on the viability of several major and minor projects - before the final call is made, in early March.
Under the Community Services title, the draft called for $140,000 to be spent on a new Olympia ice-resurfacing machine for the Scugog Arena - $80,000 from the continuation of a current surcharge fee, and $60,000 from the Township’s Community Enhancement Funds.
The current machine, which, according to Mr. Belfry, is running on borrowed time - will most likely be sold to the owners of the Scugog Marina on Water St., for the purpose of making skating rinks on the lake during the winter months.
Mayor Tom Rowett said that, “We won’t get the $10,000 from trading in the machine, but I think it’s a service to the community which will be appreciated - we lent the machine to the organizers for the Pond Hockey Tournament and they loved it.”
Further down the department’s list was phase two of Scugog Arena’s parking lot repairs - which would cost $300,000 from the tax levy. The project has been deferred for this budget, due to the large toll it would take on taxpayers - and the priority of repairs to Scugog Arena’s roof.
Councillors were also told that staff would like to move forward with a quarter-of-a-million-dollar roof replacement over the arena’s Pad 1, citing numerous leaks in the original 1974 flat roof. Those costs would be covered through the funds Scugog receives from the Great Blue Heron casino.
A structurally sound and inspected roof could see the installation of solar panels from the Illumination LP solar farm project in the future, which would further reduce energy costs of the arena.
Last week, Councillors discussed the fate of the Birdseye Eye pool, located next to the Scugog Memorial Public Library on Water St.
Craig Belfry, Scugog’s Manager of Recreation and Culture, listed off the numerous repairs that the pool will need in 2015 - which total upwards of $10,000.
Mr. Belfry also noted that the pool is seeing dwindling numbers of users, due to poor weather, the pool’s small size, and it’s proximity to the splash pad in Palmer Park.
“Is there a need for an outdoor pool if we’re going to have to continue investing money and there’s no attendance?” asked Ward 2 Councillor Janna Guido.
During the meeting earlier this week, the repair of the pool’s ‘waterbirds’ features was denied, but it is unclear whether or not the necessary tile repairs will be carried out.
In the realms of Scugog’s roads and bridges, which loom as a multi-million dollar deficit, Scugog CAO Ian Roger noted that there were no priority projects scheduled for this budget season - aside from the $1,000,000 survey and reconstruction of Crandell St. in Port Perry, which could be potentially covered by the Federal Government’s Gas Tax program.
“We have $420,000 left over from 2014 that have to be spent, and we will be receiving another $630,000 in 2015,” said Mr. Roger. “We can’t bank this money, it has to spent - so we might as well look at our roads projects.”
Mr. Roger added that the Township will see three-to-five years use out of the River St. bridge in Seagrave, which was patched in 2014 after a crucial failure. Councillors suggested setting up a fund for the bridge, so that the necessary funds are available if and when the bridge fails in a few years time.
Councillors were advised that Blackstock Arena would require some repair work in the near-future, including $100,000 from the levy for a new rink and new boards, and $5,000 for a security fence around the Township’s new emergency generator.
“Based on the uncertainty of the Blackstock Arena’s future, I’m not sure if Council wants to spend the money to fix the old, rotten boards,” said Mr. Belfry. “The boards are fixed directly to the concrete walls and our insurance company considers them dangerous - something needs to be done.”
Since the Blackstock Arena is currently sitting in a projected $52,000 of revenue from its maintenance surcharge, Council decided to replace the necessary boards and framing behind them for the time being - at a maximum cost of $25,000.
The generator fence, which is needed to keep youth from climbing onto the equipment and onto the roof, will be built up to code - after staff look into the possibility of less expensive alternatives.
Scugog’s tax levy will also see an additional $6,000 added to fund the budgets of three new community groups - which will deal with the subjects of youth, housing and environmental concerns. The Townships’ three other groups, dealing with senior-citizens, public art and accessibility - currently receive an annual maximum budget of $2,000, allocated for their use.
Last year, Scugog’s former Council approved a 3.41 per cent tax increase at the municipal level. Two per cent was taken off of the levy’s increase, by dipping into the reserve account that holds the proceeds from the sale of Scugog Hydro about a decade ago and borrowing $210,000. Residents were given a 1.32 per cent increase last year, which works out to a $56 increase on an average home.
Scugog Treasurer Trena DeBruijn explained that “for every dollar we collect, 58 per cent goes to the Region, 17 per cent goes to the school board, and 25 per cent stays in Scugog. This makes it hard to reduce taxes in any large way - and still get work done.”
According to Ms. DeBruijn and Mayor Rowett, the 2015 draft budget and business plan will be presented to councillors during a meeting on March 2 - with further meetings to be scheduled. The final budget will then be before council for approval March 30.
Prior to the budget getting council’s official endorsement, the Township will host an open house on Wednesday, March 11 - where the draft budget will be presented to the public. The meeting is open to the public, and will be held at the Scugog library, located at 231 Water St., from 6:30 to 8 p.m.