Postponed projects such as road paving left Woolwich with a large enough surplus to offset significant overspending on its operating budget in 2018. The township ended up with an overall surplus of $131,000.
The 2018 budget numbers were finalized in a presentation last week to Woolwich councillors.
The operating budget experienced a deficit of $147,957, offset by a capital budget surplus of $278,863. The township saw a surplus in its water distribution system of $23,669, while the wastewater side ran a deficit of $159,515, director of finance Richard Petherick reported.
With the operating budget, the township saw increased revenues and lower costs with some line items, but unplanned expenses exceeded any savings over the course of the year, he explained.
Repair costs at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, for instance, went over budget by $113,000, while utility costs at the WMC and St. Jacobs Arena were $75,000 more than expected. Emergency operations provided another $49,000 hit, and legal expenses, such as the $40,000 overage in engineering and planning services, helped contribute to the deficit.
On the capital side, unspent levy dollars from the township’s paving program, pushed over into 2019, helped fuel the surplus.
With the water and sewer services, inflow and infiltration (I&I) problems continue to drive wastewater deficits. I&I occurs when runoff water from rain and melting snow ends up seeping into sanitary sewers. Efforts to combat I&I problems have been ongoing in Elmira since 1994 and in St. Jacobs since 1999, and have seen new pipes installed underground, rerouting storm water from home drains away from sanitary sewer lines. In some cases, leaky laterals have been replaced. To date, tens of millions of dollars have been spent in a cost-sharing deal with the region to prevent storm water from being routed to the sewage plants, where it needlessly eats up treatment capacity.
Coun. Patrick Merlihan, pointing to the ongoing deficits despite the I&I work, asked if the township had any solution to the leaks.
Director of infrastructure services Jared Puppe noted most of the low-hanging fruit had been addressed, leaving some difficult areas, particularly in St. Jacobs.
“I&I is a challenge in St. Jacobs,” he said. “There’s no doubt it’s been a challenging process there.”
Finding infiltration spots and eliminating them is a big job in itself, but any fixes come with added concerns in the form of dealing with the water that was previously leaching into the sewer pipes. The township wants to avoid pushing the problem elsewhere as the water runs off in another direction, for instance, said Puppe.
The township wants to find the most cost-effective options, but can’t overspend on discovering and fixing small leaks, added chief administrative officer David Brenneman. In that vein, the issue is finding a balance between spending money on I&I or allocating those funds to upgrading the wastewater treatment plant to handle the extra capacity.
Spending more on I&I might not be the best use of funds, he suggested.
“The question will be, ‘how far do we go with that?’”
One route of attack the township is continuing involves re-lining sewer pipes to help seal them from leaking. The so-called cure-in-place program has been a cost-effective improvement, said Puppe.