Each year when Council approves the City’s budget, there is an amount of money set aside for major purchases and construction of property and infrastructure. We call this our “capital budget” and the specific list of projects covered by it this year is about to be finalized.
Council has been reviewing our priorities and recommendations of staff, and as part of the process we’d like to ensure the public is informed about how we’re spending this money.
We’ve posted a really good backgrounder about what a capital budget is on the City’s website, but here’s the gist of it: capital budgets are generally intended for larger projects and purchases, as opposed to day-to-day operations.
Our capital budget for 2018 in total is $23 million, and a large portion of that has already been committed. This includes the replacement of the Mews Centre, which has been in the works for years; required maintenance and upgrades to our critical water systems; and our ongoing vehicle fleet replacement program, which ensures vehicles aren’t costing more to maintain than purchase anew.
Aside from those projects, there is about $12 million for “general projects”, which staff and Council have worked together to create over the past years. These cover a wide range of services like transportation improvements, housing projects, grants to community groups, snow clearing equipment, and playground infrastructure upgrades.
You probably know that we have a three year budget cycle, so many projects have already been approved or are underway. In fact, some of the projects in previous years have come under budget or were re-prioritized, which means this year we have more money to work with than we previously thought.
Taking this into account, we are left with about $6.9 million that has not been assigned, and Council is now preparing to discuss and vote on a set of recommended projects. These recommendations come from both Council and staff, and the projects are prioritized based on need and value provided.
Below is the list of projects that Council is considering. You can read descriptions of each of these project here, which will give you a sense of how they got on the list.
If these projects are approved there would be just over $2.5 million remaining, and we’re leaving them “uncommitted” for the time being because there is a potential investment in Quidi Vidi Lake for the Regatta 200th anniversary. The City has been asked to make a contribution of $2M, but the scope of the project has not been finalized, nor has Council’s commitment to such a large amount without more detail.
Once we have clarity on the project details, Council will review the remaining $2.5 million and determine if there are other priorities we can pursue.
In the meantime, you can read more about this in Council’s February 28 Committee of the Whole agenda. Once Council discusses the recommendations at that meeting, our decision will be ratified at the March 5th Council meeting, and throughout that period you’re encouraged to connect with me or other councillors with questions or comments.
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p.s. While today I’ve only spoken about one portion of our overall budget, you can consider this an early part of our enhanced public engagement for the 2019-2021 budget cycle. You’ll be hearing a lot more in the coming months and be given more opportunities to be a part of our decision making than ever before.