Dysart et al council opted to spend an additional $300,000 for 2021 road projects and washout contingency by drawing from reserves.
Council decided Feb. 12 to draw from a 2020 maintenance budget surplus to fund the initiative, placing $225,000 in a development reserve for 2021 road projects and $75,000 for roadside washouts. Council intends for the funding to help revert more gravel roads to hardtop, if possible. The funding is in addition to $1.52 million committed in 2021 for road capital projects.
“It’s really important we address some of these roads and start fixing them,” Coun. Walt McKechnie said. “Just delaying it doesn’t help.”
The initiative should not impact the Dysart portion of the tax rate, which stands at a 1.16 per cent increase, finalized Feb. 23.
The resurfacing issue has dominated Dysart budget talks. Council is trying to make good on a commitment to revert hardtop roads the municipality previously pulverized to gravel, with priority based on traffic counts. In a report, director of public works, Rob Camelon, said the municipality did this on 37 kilometres of roads, with an estimated cost of $3.3 million to reinstate.
The maintenance reserve from 2020 stems from relatively milder winter weather. Mayor Andrea Roberts and staff expressed some concern about not putting more into maintenance for worse seasonal weather in the future.
“We often hear about the 100-year storm,” treasurer Barbara Swannell said. “The 100-year storm is just a term. The reality is those 100-year storms are happening much quicker.”
Coun. John Smith said it made sense to put less into reserve transfers this year. He said the municipality has plenty of borrowing capacity for a “100-year storm.”
“The problem with the reserves is we’re taking that from the taxpayers,” Smith said. “Some of whom need it.”
He later noted transfers are still solid in other areas such as the working fund reserve, given a $545,660 2020 budget surplus. Roberts said the municipality would have been in a deficit position were it not for the provincial Safe Restart funding.
With budget talks nearing completion, Roberts expressed pride in the draft.
“(Roads) is our biggest expenditure that we have control over. It is where we’re really trying to put tax dollars and use them well and wisely,” Roberts said. “I feel that we’re really, really making progress here in Dysart.”