Falls council approves $53.8M capital budget

By Ray Spiteri, Niagara Falls Review

Niagara Falls city council chambers.
(Niagara Falls Review/Postmedia Network file photo)

Niagara Falls city council chambers. (Niagara Falls Review/Postmedia Network file photo)

City council has approved a $53.8-million spending plan, a significant increase from the $28.8-million capital budget in 2016.

The majority of the spending — $35.5 million — is for municipal works.

Millions of dollars will go towards fleet replacement and bus purchases, as well as needed replacements to roads, sewers, watermains and bridges.

Director of municipal works Geoff Holman said the city is planning for several sewer separation projects.

The city will also take advantage of closed-circuit television surveillance to inspect various sections of its sewer system to identify problem areas that need maintenance.

The capital budget is fully funded based on available sources.

Funding comes from a number of sources, including special purposes reserves ($11.1 million), transfers from the operating budget ($12.6 million) and provincial/federal grants ($12.1 million).

The city also receives more than $20 million per year for hosting two casinos.

Finance director Todd Harrison said the city has received three quarterly payments in 2016/17 in the amount of $19 million from Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

He said the municipality expects the fourth-quarter payment will be between $4.2 million and $5.4 million and be received in April.

That money could be spent on some of the $17.1-million worth of projects the city has on its radar, but currently has no funding for.

The biggest ticket item on that list is a new fire station, at $4.7 million.

He said council has committed $19.8-million of OLG reserve funds to various projects, including $8.9 million on infrastructure, $5.9 million to subsidize the tax levy, $4.2 million to pay for casino policing and $690,000 for economic development initiatives.

Council approved using future OLG funds to pay for play area improvements at FJ Miller Park ($206,000) and Ontario Park ($197,000), as well as for a possible joint city/regional crosswalk project ($75,000) on McLeod Road, near Wilson Crescent.

All city directors were required to submit lists of departmental projects to be considered for the 2017 budget.
Projects were prioritized, with shovel-ready projects being deemed top priority.

Directors were required to rank departmental priority one projects and staff used these ranked lists to fund projects.

Finance staff also funded capital projects pre-approved through the year prior to the budget being presented.