City sets spending priorities
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Feb 04, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

City sets spending priorities

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert editor@stratfordgazette.com

Renovating the City Hall council chambers, installing a new HVAC system at the Kiwanis Centre, and beginning an affordable housing strategy are the first projects to get the green light based on a new five-year plan that is to guide city spending without putting a greater burden on local taxpayers.

Council last week adopted a strategic priorities framework developed by Toronto-based consulting firm AtFocus, which engaged taxpayers, various stakeholders and city staff through a web survey, interviews, workshops and focus groups, and reviewed city documents, before narrowing down the list of municipal needs to be completed between now and 2018.

According to CAO Ron Shaw, the priorities plan will be funded with an anticipated $200,000 is saving each year resulting from the city's debt reduction. The city's long-term debt was approximately $88.25 million at the end of 2013.

"This framework was designed taking into account available financing without going into further debt," Shaw says.

Second priority for spending is a series of far-less-flashy but important projects including completion of an asset management plan, engineering storm project review, IT strategic plan, and staff training plan.

Subsequent years have money earmarked for the affordable housing strategy and IT infrastructure as well as increases to the social housing capital budget and building reserves.

Shaw notes there is money set aside in this year's budget to continue with the design of the sewer on Queen Street, but beyond that staff will wait until after the engineering review of the municipal storm sewer system before committing to any further work.

The framework also suggests priority projects that should not proceed unless additional funding become available. At the top of that list is the Market Square revitalization. Some of the others include installation of an insulated arena floor, implementation of the Area Transportation Plan, completion of the steps leading into City Hall, new sidewalks with enhanced accessibility, and offering Sunday bus service.

Other components of the framework are more organizational, and include a vision and mission statement for the city, an overall strategic goal, and three priority pillars.

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