At its regular meeting on Tuesday, Sackville Town Council approved the 2018 financial audit showing that the town ended last year with a small operating surplus of $62,888 and a half million dollar drop in its long-term debt.
“Overall, 2018 was a good year,” Treasurer Michael Beal said later during an interview. “It was probably one of the better years we’ve had,” he added. “Our revenue was higher than expected and all departments, except for public works, came in under budget thereby allowing us to reduce our needed borrowing.”
A report that Beal submitted to council noted that public works exceeded its budget because of the costs of snow clearing and street patching, while $300,000 in higher-than- projected revenues resulted from such items as increased fees for building permits, the sale of assets, including an old fire truck, and reimbursements from the province for past floods.
To read an excerpt from the Treasurer’s report, click here.
The 2018 audit also shows that Sackville paid $555,000 more on its long-term debt than it borrowed. The debt fell from $13.7 million in 2017 to just under $13.2 million last year, a decline of more than half a million dollars.
Beal says the town will be able to pay its 25% share of Phase II of the Lorne Street flood control project without having to borrow any money.
The $2.9 million project includes a 40,000 cubic metre stormwater retention pond south of St. James Street.
Meantime, Town Engineer Dwayne Acton reported to council on Tuesday that installation of culverts under the CN Rail line, as part of the Lorne Street project, went smoothly last week. He said culverts have also been installed under Crescent Street and excavation of the big retention pond is 85% complete.
Good news and bad
Treasurer Beal reported to council that the town is getting an unexpected, one-time windfall, just over $414,000 from the Federal Gas Tax Fund. The money was set aside in the recent federal budget, doubling Ottawa’s support this year for municipal infrastructure projects.
Beal noted that Sackville is already getting $367,359 this year from the fund for repaving projects.
However, he also reported that the province has drastically cut its budget for improvements to provincially designated highways.
While Sackville will still receive $75,000 in provincial funds to complete the reconstruction of Main Street near the hospital, there will be no additional money in 2019 for other projects such as the $310,000 reconstruction of Cattail Ridge to Bridge Street that was part of the cost-shared, five-year highway plan the town submitted to the province last fall.
When asked whether the $414,000 in additional federal gas tax money could be applied to the Cattail Ridge project, the town’s Chief Administrative Officer said staff would be making recommendations to council soon on the use of that money. Phil Handrahan added that improvements to Cattail Ridge could be included, but he suggested that spending the money on a provincial road would mean the town’s own streets might suffer.
He also pointed out that traditionally the province paid all of the costs of maintaining such highways before requiring municipalities to contribute 15%.
Earlier, Councillor Shawn Mesheau urged council to find a way to complete its five-year plan for provincially designated highways even without provincial money.
“We have made a commitment as a council to the folks in these areas,” Mesheau said, “and I think they’ll be looking for some leadership from council to say ‘OK we feel it’s important and we’re going to make it happen no matter how much money is coming from the province.'”