A larger than anticipated year-end surplus prompted some debate around the council table about what to do with the extra money.
At their March 26 meeting, council was told that the $329,000 surplus from 2017 that they had been expecting had ballooned to nearly $700,000.
“On January 15, 2018 the Monthly Financial Variance report to November 30, 2017 was presented to Council. Included in the report was an estimated 2017 surplus of $329,000 within the tax supported budget,” wrote Treasurer Darcy Chapman in his March 26 report to council. “Upon completion of all year-end accounting and close out functions the expected surplus is now approximately $682,600.”
Council was told that the surplus was the result of a number of factors including savings from unfilled staff positions, the contracting out of cleaning services, savings on insurance policies, along with additional taxation revenue of $108,400 as a result of a reduction in write-off related to military base properties and farmland reclassification.
Chapman recommended to council that the entirety of the surplus be transferred to the Library Expansion Reserve Fund in order to reduce the amount of future debt that will be taken on to complete the new library, however councillors had other plans for the unexpected windfall.
With the news of the larger than expected surplus, Councillor Steve Bartley proposed using the funds for the reconstruction of a two kilometre section of Story Book Park Road. Residents on that road saw their hard-surfaced road pulverized and returned to gravel last year with little warning and no opportunity to dialogue with the municipality in order to consider other options. Councillor Bartley has been championing the reversal of that action for several months.
“I would like to bring a motion forward that out of this surplus, we set enough money aside to reconstruct Story Book Park Road, and put two nice coats of tar and chip on it, and bring it back to the way it was,” Bartley told council.
Chapman advised council that the cost to reconstruct the section of Story Book Park Road would cost $425,000, and he reminded council that there are a number of roads in the municipality in need of rehabilitation that he said would take precedence over Story Book Park Road.
“If we are going to spend between $500,000 to $700,000 on a road project, there are 55 roads within our road classification that are of higher priority than Story Book Park Road,” Chapman told council.
Chapman also suggested that some 40 percent of the municipal road network is gravel surfaced, and many of those roads have higher traffic counts than Story Book Park Road.
While Bartley's motion found the support of the majority of council, some became frustrated when Chapman advised that should council opt to dedicate part of the surplus toward the reconstruction of Story Book Park Road, it won't happen in 2018.
“There is no chance that we will be prioritizing any of this (surplus) money for a project in 2018,” Chapman advised, adding that there isn't sufficient time to put the project out to tender for completion in 2018, noting that the tender process alone takes eight weeks. “It would be a 2019 project at best.”
With a municipal election on the horizon, councillors were initially hesitant to dedicate funds from the surplus for a project that wouldn't be undertaken until 2019, as the next council could opt to go in a different direction, however they ultimately voted in favour of dedicating $425,000 from the 2017 surplus to a reserve fund for the reconstruction of Story Book Park Road in 2019, with the balance of the surplus (roughly $257,000) transferred to the Library Expansion Reserve Fund to help reduce the amount of debt required for the library project.
The half dozen residents of Story Book Park Road who attended the meeting applauded the decision after council's vote.