Possibility of unspent gas tax revenues a new concern for the town

 

Town Logo Small-webBy Ron Giofu

 

As the town continues to work on its 2014 budget, another unwanted surprise has been unearthed along the way.

“Last week we found that we have $500,000 in unspent gas tax from 2012,” reported Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Phipps. “We have about $1 million in unspent gas tax from 2013. If these funds remain unspent for three years, they must be refunded to the province. The problem is, the gas tax funds have gone the same way as development charges, gone through the general funds and used for other expenditures.”

Phipps added the gas tax revenue is not sitting in any fund, despite town council being advised it was available for projects, including Texas Road.

Texas Road was to be redone in 2013-14 but was shelved when the town’s financial issues came to the forefront. Residents of the road note the surface continues to deteriorate with heaving pavement and potholes becoming more prevalent.

“As I stated, if these funds are not spent, they must be returned to the province,” said Phipps. “Since we don’t have the funds to refund, we’ll have to borrow the funds to refund. If we do the work to ensure we don’t have to refund, we still have to borrow the funds.”

The CAO stated he has asked the public works department to prepare a list of projects that will qualify for gas tax funding.

“By doing so, although it incurs more debt, we will ensure at least we get something for our costs,” said Phipps.

That news comes on the heels of a Windsor Star report that stated $6.6 million in water and wastewater charges were collected over five years for projects that have not started with that money not currently sitting in any reserve. Projects that were to be funded through debentures included “water main replacements, upgrades to the fluoridation system and two pump stations, a waste water plant emergency generator for Boblo Island and a new force main connecting Edgewater to the waste water plant,” the article stated.

Phipps told the River Town Times that money has been used for other matters rather than for the projects they were originally collected for.

“There is no money missing,” said Phipps, adding “it has been collected but used on other projects rather than for what the funds were intended.”

Work on the budget continues, he also told the RTT, as both he and director of finance Wendy Dade aim to have it ready by late-March.

“With respect to the budget, Wendy is working away diligently attempting to ensure we have included everything that has been identified,” Phipps told the RTT. “Although I am away until the March 24 meeting, Wendy and I will be working daily on the preparation of the budget document. As of today, we are still in the double digits, without any capital works being included. If there is any capital works to be done, and there are some that we will soon be ordered to do by the Ministry of Environment (pump station 2 and force main), all will have to be debentured. As of today, we’ll be presenting the budget as it now stands. If there will be services to cut, that will be up to council to determine which must go.”

 

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