City administration is pitching a $160.7-million capital budget that features spending on preserving landmarks, improving roads and floating more dollars to approved projects.
On Thursday, the city handed over its proposed budget to council and to the public before it is debated in council chambers on Nov. 24.
In all there are 152 projects, up 47 from the 2015 capital budget ($173-million).
As with recent city capital budgets, the bulk of spending will be on core infrastructure needs including rebuilding roads, crown paving and major transportation projects.
City manager Craig Curtis said the budget was prepared in light of some economic uncertainty, namely long-term provincial and federal funding.
“We all know the province has a $6-billion deficit,” said Curtis. “We would be burying our head in the sand if we thought that is not going to affect us … But I would say we are pleased in 2015 at least the Municipal Sustainability Initiative was kept whole. The projections for the MSI are to increase back to the level before we had one-time funding. That may be optimistic but at the same time we know the province will be looking to balance its budget.”
Curtis said the city is a little concerned about the impacts of a new program from the province. He said it is important mid-sized cities are recognized in province infrastructure.
Mayor Tara Veer said council will debate the specifics of the budget on Nov. 24. She said the goal is to move the city forward and to respond to the changing and emerging issues in a financially responsible way.
“Ultimately the objective is to bring stabilization to our local economy through public sector investment but also be highly responsive to the emerging economic recession and what is ultimately financial challenges in the community as whole,” said Veer. “When you look at this capital plan, it honours our commitments as a whole.”
Veer said it honours the city’s commitment to the 2019 Canada Winter Games, core infrastructure, particularly transportation and public sector investment.
She said the city also has a long-term plan for the big ticket items and amenities that residents have requested. She said the capital savings plan, adopted last year, positions the city for new facilities and new growth in the future.
“It also protects our community from future tax hikes,” she said. “There are things that get deferred but I think the key is to find the right balance between not deferring so far out into the future that you effectively bring about an infrastructure deficit but also not overbuild so you inflate construction costs in the local economy.”
Dean Krejci, the city’s chief financial officer, said the city’s spending in the proposed budget is sustainable following a 10-year projection on the reserves, grants and various off-site levy funds.
“All of the city’s funding sources are currently sustainable,” he said. “Overall I would say on the capital side, we are in pretty good shape.”
“A lot of the improvements relate to our core infrastructure as the city grows
There is a request for additional funding ($2.7 million) for the relocation of Station 3 and Station 4 fire stations. Roughly $15.3 million was approved for both relocations last year.
Council will debate the capital budget on Nov.24 in council chambers starting at 9 a.m.
It will also consider the $1.38-billion capital plan (2017 to 2025).
Proposed 2016 Budget Highlights
l South east sector transportation – $12.2 million
l West Queens Business Park – $9.8 million
l Fleet Replacement – $8.4 million
l Crown Paving – $7.6 million
l 67 street Corridor Improvements – $6.6 million
l Roadway reconstruction – $5.7 million
l River Bend Recreation Area enhancements and preservation– $5.5 million
l Alexander Way Phase 3 – 54th Avenue to River Plaza – $5.1 million
l CPR Pedestrian Bridge preservation – $3.7 million
l Great Chief Park enhancements – $3 million
l Memorial Centre preservation – $2.1 million
l Riverwalk for Riverlands project – $1.7 million