Charlottetown council brings down ambitious budget

Dave Stewart
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Cecil Villard, chair of the City of Charlottetown's financve committee looks over the 2014 budget.

Passes $56.9 million plan that includes new scoreboard for Eastlink Centre, major water and sewer projects

The City of Charlottetown is holding the line on taxes, sending police officers back to high school, building a new fire hall and preparing for its next roundabout.

Those are some of the key highlights in the capital city’s $56.9-million budget, passed on Friday by a 9-0 vote (Coun. Mitchell Tweel was absent).

That budget total includes both operating and capital expenditures. The water and sewer utility is projecting a budget of $18.4 million.

CLiCK HERE TO VIEW THE 2014 CHARLOTTETOWN BUDGET

Coun. Cecil Villard, chairman of administrative services, says the lack of any increase in residential or water and sewer taxes is one of the big highlights.

“I think we presented a budget that allows us to continue with some pretty important projects for the city,’’ Villard said following his budget address at City Hall.

He’s referring to the two major water and sewer projects — the Spring Park storm and sanitary water separation work that will put a stop to sewage seeping into the city’s harbour, and development of the new water source. The separation project should be finished late this year or early in 2015 while the city will present a financial plan for the water source in the very near future.

“In the next couple of weeks it will be laid out,’’ Mayor Clifford Lee said. “We need to be smart in developing the financial plan. I am reasonably confident that the water supply will come online in the city (in 2016) we’ll have no adjustments to the water and sewer rates in the city.’’

Coun. Eddie Rice, chairman of water and sewer, said he’s happy with how both projects are progressing.

“For water and sewer separation we’re moving ahead at a pace that I’m happy with,’’ Rice said. “With the new water supply, (it’s not moving) as fast as some people would like it to but at a speed which we’ve got control. We’re (also) creating employment over a longer period of time in the city.’’

The city is also sending two police officers back to high school, stationing one at Charlottetown Rural and one at Colonel Gray it what will now be a full-time program. The city has budgeted $70,000 in this year’s budget, which covers Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, will cover the cost of hiring two officers (salary and benefits) that will replace the two going into the school system.

“The pilot project was extremely successful, even more successful than we probably envisioned it would be,’’ said Coun. David MacDonald, chairman of protective and emergency services.

A new fire hall is on the way but construction won’t start this year. The city is budgeting $2.25 million to buy the necessary land and design it. The intention is to have two fire halls long term, the existing one at Kent Street and a new hall in the northern end of the city. The city’s lease is up soon with the station in Sherwood although the doors at No. 2 won’t shut before a new location opens. Exactly where is anyone’s guess. The city expects to make an announcement in April.

The city has also budgeted $175,000 to purchase one more piece of land and pay for the engineering design work to put a roundabout on St. Peter’s Road, the so-called Vogue Optical corner.

“We just need the Build Canada Fund money to come on stream which they’ve announced now will be available,’’ said Coun. Terry Bernard, chairman of public works. “We’ll be applying for that and look to construction in 2015.’’

Eastlink Centre is getting a new 3-digit LED scoreboard that will accommodate the city’s professional basketball franchise. That’s costing the city $85,000. The new scoreboard will not feature replay screens.

Activities and celebrations around the 150th anniversary of Confederation have been provided for in the operating portion of the budget. The city will have a year-long series of free events, concerts, festivals and fireworks with special events for seniors, veterans and youth. Natal Day will transition into a five-day celebration, renamed 1864 Week for 2014.

The annual arts and culture grant from the provincial government has increased by one per cent over 2013 but the city notes that it sits at an amount less than what the city got in 2008.

The entire budget document, including a breakdown of capital projects and initiatives, is available at www.charlottetown.ca/budgets.php.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: Build Canada Fund

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Spring Park, Kent Street Sherwood

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