2019 City of Windsor Budget Hot-Take Part 2: Capital

Capital Budget

First thing I have noticed is that it is a 7 year budget compared to the 6 year budget proposed in 2018 and 5 Year in 2017. I don’t recall the shift to a 10 year plan that is coming but I think it is a good thing in principle. The items up for approval in this year’s budget have been (for the most part) sitting in a queue for years. What are talking about in this document is if something is being pulled up or pushed back or being added to be completed sometime in the mid-2020s.

That being said the discussion portion of the document outline a number of interesting factors. First that the City’s purchasing power is being pressed, hense the recommended transfer of operational dollars to capital in this years’ budget. This paragraph shows the potential shortfall:

Based on this review process, new projects and or increases to previously approved in principle projects have been brought forth within the 2019 – 2023 period. There is approximately $121.44 M in additional capital project funding requests within this time frame, of which approximately $67.86M was funded….Several projects listed in Appendix A were able to be funded by dedicated reserves and or development charges. As a result, there was no impact to other projects to accommodate $24.67M of the $67.86M in funded requests.

Capital Budget pdf pg 7

To combat this some dollars have been freed up – $15M for the Paul Martin Building are recommended to be reallocated; the Pedestrian tunnel under Riverside seems to be dead with the recommendation that the $2.5M be transfer to the redevelopment of City Hall Square and Civic Esplanade. Ongoing inflationary pressures will continue to be a challenge for the City. In a low tax environment how those cost pressures are managed over the long term is a significant challenge.

Pre-commitment

The other big shift is a request to begin tendering multi-year projects in a single tender. The example used is the Cabana Rd. widening which is a $46M project, which by pre-committing funding and tending the whole project it would battle inflationary pressures, allow for larger project components to be undertaken and fewer start/stops in work which would reduce overall project costs. The same logic is applied to bulk purchases like playground equipment or new buses where if a large set of funds is utilized to buy all of the assets at once, better rates can be negotiated.

This long term allocation of funding is interesting and potentially can drive cost savings that I am all for, but I am not clear on the mechanics, from the example used:

For example had Cabana been funded at $46M the first year it started it would have consumed almost half of the entire capital budget for that year. Allocating funding over the 10 years leaves sufficient funding room for other projects to proceed.

pg 6

So are they paying the $46M in 10 equal installments to the builder and work is being completed immediately? Are they utilizing reserves/credit to pay entirely upfront, then repaying the reserve/credit line? Or are they paying for X years of work with payment being paid out over the period of work as it is completed? This isn’t clear to me in this proposed process.

There is also a significant political element. If project funding is pre-committed over multiple years does that not constrain future councils in their ability to reverse course or alter a project? Using the example above, would it be too late to go and add in separated bike lanes on Cabana after the multi-year tender had been issued and accepted? If it it a 10 year funding horizon, yet City Council only sits for a 4 year term will future councils find their ability to alter course or prioritize hamstrung by past council decisions? Some of this is dealt with in the risk discussion within the budget but the implications still seem hazy to me.

2019 Projects of Note:

Again, not every project. There are literally hundreds more, so you should read it yourself at your local library or on the City Website.

MAY-001-19 – Branding – $500k in 2020, 2021

HCS-001-19 Meadowbrook Housing – $12M

Investing $12M to get $38M in value for the first new community housing units in the City in decades. A bargain!

ENG-006-16 – Coventry Gardens Peace Fountain Capital Repairs – 100k in 2022

A great excerpt from the project description

…the lighting is run by a DOS based software program that is understood by very few.

Pg 172

OPS-001-07 Road Rehabilitation – $8.1M in 2019

I have nothing against this list other than I bike to work down College Ave and it needs to be done, but now I need to find another way to work.

OPS-001-11 – Minor Alley Maintenance – 200k in 2019

32km of 80km of alley were deficient as of June 2018.

OPS-005-07 – Railway Lands Fencing – 100k in 2019

This will probably be used to keep people from crossing the ETR line to the College Ave bus terminal… Oh wait.

OPS-005-19 – Gravel Alley Drainage Improvement – 400k 2026+

Leveraging alleyways for drainage in 7 years. If only there was a strategy around these spaces.

Page 500 to Page 509 of the PDF – Past ECB funding requests from 2016 & 2017

OPS-002-19 – Property Development at 2890 North Service Rd. – 790K 2026+

More or less to create a storage area for flood damaged materials next to the public drop off on North Service Rd.

PFO-006-12 – Community Parks Initiatives – 500k 2019

This year’s community park project is the Bridgeview Path Shelter Lights Park Redevelopment…. I don’t know where that is or what that means. It’s followed by Forest Glade projects in subsequent years.

PFO-007-12 – Neighbourhood Parks Initiative – $1.25M 2019-21

Mitchell and Bruce park in the City Centre will be getting major upgrades over the next few years.

PLN-018-07 – Neighbourhood Studies and Design Guidelines – $225k from 2019-21

Planning and study on Neighbourhood design ranging from CIPs to by-law reviews, to creating urban design manuals for neighbourhoods. No specifics on the potential neighbourhoods.

OPS-006-19 – Food and Organic Waste Study – 65K in 2021.

More or less to study the process for Food Waste diversion (Greenbins) from the Landfill by 2022 as mandated by the province.

OPS-001-19 Pedestrian Crossovers – 100k in 2024 and beyond.

Looks like pedestrian crossovers aren’t coming for 5 years so be sure to look both ways before crossing the street.

OPS-014-07 – City Wide Bikeway Development Initiatives – 600k per year for 3 years then 200k in ’22 and ’23 and 400k in ’24-26.

No locations determined it depends on road reconstruction (see screenshot above for this years projects). That being said just over $2M was reallocated from this fund for the Dougall underpass project to solve the “death trap”. This work will begin this year.

OPS-021-07 – Traffic Calming Initiatives – 169K in 2019 & 106k in 2020.

Does not speak to specific locations or priorities.

TRN-001-19 – Public Transit Infrastructure Fund Phase 2 and Project Management – $144M Total

Yes you read that right, $144,775,004 with $46,552,185 spent between now and 2025. This is the transit infrastructure modernization that will likely be triggered by the Master plan that is due back to Council in the fall. Opportunities for BRT and the overall system reimagining and technological improvements.

That being said over the next 7 years all of the funding is targeted to Provincial and Federal Grant so the City of Windsor doesn’t expect to fund any of this until after 2026 when it has held $36M

FRS-003-13 – New Fire Headquarters – $23M 2025+

Placeholder for a new fire headquarters

LGL-002-16 – Environmentally Significant Land Acquisition – $1.5M in 2020

A report will be forthcoming but this is the placeholder for a potential purchase of Ojibway Shores from the Port.

LGL-003-17 – Confidential Property Related Matters – $4.55M

$4.55M on confidential property purchases….

EDG-001-11 – Lauzon Parkway & Cty Rd 42 Infrastructure – $1.5M

Design for the realignment of Lauzon/Cty Rd 42 realigned with property acquistion beginning next year.

PBG-003-18 – Annexed Land Growth/Development – Storm-water Financing Study – 670k in 2022

Studying how to manage storm-water 3 years from now.

ECB-042-18 – Theme Districting – $5.25M between 2019 and 2023

Districting, its coming Walkerville!

What I Didn’t See

Things that I don’t see in this capital budget:

  • Central Library Branch: If the Mission is taking over that location this coming June, where is the plan or budget for the new location. I get that the Library has it’s own budget etc. they are going to need City money to build their new facility. I guess that request is coming outside the budget process?
  • The Councillors for Wards 2, 8 & 9 all ran (from my recollection) on platforms that called for new community centres or libraries in their wards. Although this budget was largely a carryover of the last Council, could a table drop be in the cards? If not, they all have one less budget year to get their projects on the books. As the budget horizon grow next year, will voters be satisfied with a new library in 2028?
  • Alley Lights: no mention or plan around alley lighting is mentioned in the budget. There is $250k for “Alley funding” but no specifics on what that will be put towards beyond Administration has compiled a priority list based on technical needs. All other alley investments relate to ongoing maintenance and some future drainage planning.
  • Active Transportation Master Plan: No funding pre-approved beyond existing capital projects for implementation of the active transit strategy that is due back fall 2019. Given the scope of the work, wouldn’t proactive investment/reserves to help jump start the recommendations be prudent?

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