A Jan. 11 budget presentation made by Corporate Services Director Kale Brown to Aylmer council detailed the financial outline for 2021 and provided a five-year project plan.
Mr. Brown first outlined matters that were carried forward into 2021 from the previous year, and how the panemic was affecting certain projects.
There are ongoing payroll adjustments for town staff. As a result of the provincial shutdown, some EECC staff will be transferred to other Aylmer departments, such as parks.
Mr. Brown said that a tender for the Clarence Street reconstruction project was currently being prepared for this year. While the project was estimated to cost $1.2-million in 2020, the project is now estimated to cost about $1.5-million.
The Clarence Street reconstruction was originally scheduled for 2020, but was delayed due to the pandemic.
“The consequence of that is it puts projects starting to stack up on one another,” said Mr. Brown. “So department heads are having to review things that didn’t get completed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and making sure the 10-year plan is adjusted to accommodate all of them again.”
“We’re basically doing 10 years’ worth of projects in 9 years.”
The development charges, water, and sewer rates study will move forward in 2021. This will allow staff to prepare capital plans, which will assist with the asset management plan and future capital planning for the water and sewer assets.
The application for federal-provincial funding for 25 Centre Street renovations has been submitted. The renovations will cost between $200,000 and $250,000 and combine Aylmer town hall with the attached building on Centre Street. This will allow enough space for distanced in person council meetings.
The town received $553,810 in 2019 from the province in the form of a modernization grant. Mr. Brown discussed five projects using this funding scheduled to take place this year.
$90,000 will go to a records management system. Mr. Brown said this will allow staff to move more digitally in terms of file retention and file tracking. “Once it is established, it actually alters the way you process information, the way you track files, and the way it’s actually searchable and retrievable files as well.”
$10,000 of the grant money will be spent on a Human Resources Information System. The add-on module will track staff training, sign offs, and pandemic-related information, such as daily health screenings.
A bar code will be applied to tax bills. This will require a redesign that will cost an estimated $3,700. “If you were coming to pay your taxes at town hall, you would put your tax bill stub underneath the bar code scanner and immediately it would pull up information relating to your tax roll.”
A parks and recreation master plan will cost $60,000, an item that has been discussed and put forward for several years. It will provide council with direction on available options in that department.
$100,000 of this grant will go towards the 25 Centre Street renovation. There are other scheduled projects using this grant money for 2022 and 2023, leaving an unallocated balance left of $27,110.
The town benefit renewal in April is projected to cost the town $31,000 more than last year.
There is a 1.86% increase in the assessment roll, which represents “growth and expansion that has happened, which is coming online and being taxed for the first time.” This growth should help council address other increased costs, said Mr. Brown.
He reiterated the uncertainty regarding the operating conditions in 2021. “We do not have a crystal ball as to how the year will progress. Operating environments can still change and they will be volatile, at least for the first half of 2021.”
Councillor Tom Charlton asked for more details about the $60,000 parks and recreation master plan.
Mr. Brown clarified that the master plan is a study. It would include input from the public as to what they would like to see from the parks and recreation department. This long-range document would also lay out operations and programming options available to council.
The presentation also highlighted a financial sustainability analysis from 2015 to 2019 for the town of Aylmer. The sustainability indicators are prepared by the province, using information from financial information returns, which are submitted by each municipality.
Aylmer ranked “low” level of risk in every category throughout 2019 when compared to other south region lower tier municipalities.
Some of the indicators include debt servicing cost as a percent of total revenues, annual surplus (deficit) as a percent of own source revenues, and total reserves and discretionary reserve funds as a percent of municipal expenses.
There was one “moderate” risk ranking in the debt servicing section in 2017. “That is pretty quickly explained – that was the final retirement of the debt relating to the EECC’s construction,” said Mr. Brown.
“The moral of the story is that the financial sustainability in the current financial state of the town of Aylmer has been incredibly conservative and in good financial health for a number of years.”
Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express