ESTEVAN - Members of Estevan city council spent much of Monday examining the City of Estevan’s financial plan for 2022.
Each of the city’s department heads appeared before city council to present their operating expenses, and, when applicable, their capital needs for next year. Then members of council had their chance to ask questions on why some items were in the document, and, in some cases, why other capital expenses weren’t included.
The budget calls for approximately $25.5 million in general operating revenue, with nearly $21.8 million in taxes and grants, and more than $3.7 million in fees and charges.
General operating expenses are pegged at $24.2 million, leaving a net surplus of more than $1.3 million for the general fund.
As for the utility operations, fees and charges are expected to generate $6.6 million, while expenses are pegged to be about $5.4 million, with a net surplus at $1.2 million.
The total surplus for operations is $2.5 million.
There is not a property tax increase or a utility rate increase factored into the numbers presented on Monday, but the actual budget will not be finalized until the public has had a chance to provide feedback.
As for the capital expenses, there is $2.49 million funded through surpluses. The budget calls for $650,000 for a watermain replacement on Lynd Crescent, financed from the infrastructure fund that has been in place for several years.
Also in the budget is $360,000 for repairs to the paddling pool in the Churchill Playpark. The pool has been closed since the end of the 2019 playparks season, and the expense was approved earlier this year but couldn’t be completed until 2022.
The budget also calls for nearly $3.6 million in debt repayment principal and $527,191 in interest.
There is also $780,000 for fleet renewals between the city, the fire department and the Estevan Police Service; $200,000 for sidewalk replacements; $50,000 for Hawkes Bay landscaping; $250,000 for pathway maintenance, including CP Rail’s north crossing on Kensington Avenue and unfinished areas for the pathway project, and $200,000 for landfill monitoring.
The budget also calls for nearly $2.1 million in capital through borrowing, highlighted by $1 million in roadway rehabilitation for Smith Street, Yardley Place and Hastings Place. Another $720,000 is for roof and HVAC replacements at the Estevan Leisure Centre, which is half the cost of the project. The city hopes to receive funding from Western Economic Diversification Coal Transition for the other half. Also to be financed by borrowing is $150,000 for four blocks of back lanes in downtown Estevan, and $100,000 to complete the work on Fourth Street.
The water tower rehabilitation, which has a cost of $1.5 million, and the Smith Street electric rebuild for $500,000 will be funded by the gas tax.
Much of the time during Monday’s meeting was dedicated to the capital budget of the engineering services division and the operating budget of public works.
When discussing the engineering budget, Councillor Shelly Veroba wanted to know why Fifth Street isn’t in the 2022 document. It is in the 2023 capital plan, but is contingent on the city receiving government funding.
Veroba wanted to know why they wouldn’t have a shave and pave, but that wouldn’t address water and sewer mains for Fifth Street.
“I feel like other cities are doing it when they can’t get to the undergrounds, and these are older areas in Brandon that they’re doing it in. I feel like we could learn from other cities,” she said.
If Estevan doesn’t get government funding for Fifth Street, she wanted to know if it could be done in phases, similar to what was done with King Street. She was told that could happen.
The focus on the public works budget was dust control and grading. Veroba wanted to see more money allocated towards reducing dust on Devonian Street East and Sixth Street.
Council ultimately approved another $40,000 in the budget for a third application of the dust control chemical to those areas.
Members also reviewed a three-year capital plan from 2022-2024. City manager Jeff Ward and Mayor Roy Ludwig voiced support for a three-year plan, although Ludwig noted the last two years would be subject to some change.
“Overall, the base of it, I think, looks great, and then you can see a lot of the things we want to do during our term are in there, spread out over ’22, ’23 and ’24,” said Ludwig.
Councillor Kirsten Walliser wanted to see a roadway rehabilitation for First Street and Valley Street moved into the 2022 budget from the 2024 plan. She noted that the project was supposed to be done this year, but was pushed further back.
“It’s an easy win if we can sneak it back in this year,” said Walliser.
She also noted that requests for the Power Dodge Arena are in 2023, even though council had discussed having some upgrades completed in time for the Centennial Cup national junior A hockey championship in May 2022. There had been discussions of using the city’s second arena for practices, but due to the number of games in a short amount of time, the Power Dodge Arena won’t be needed.
Ward said now that council has gone through the document, the fiscal plan will be put out for public feedback through the Christmas break, and brought back to council for approval in the new year.