At the last Special Council meeting, Adam Found, Manager of Corporate Assets, reviewed the new capital grant opportunities that the municipality has submitted applications for, including the following:
Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program
Rural and Northern Municipalities Stream – This is a competitive program targeted toward roads and bridges to strengthen Canada’s transportation networks. Federal and Provincial governments will fund up to 83% of eligible capital project cost subject to a $5 million cap. The Colborne St. Bridge and Colborne St. West reconstruction project scheduled for 2020-2024 has been submitted. The bridge location was approved by Council in 2015 following several studies.
Transit Stream – This is an allocation-based program under which the City can apply for up to $1.7 million. Eligible costs are funded up to 73% by Federal and Provincial governments. A multi-pronged Transit Improvement and Expansion project (2020-2025) which includes expansion of Lindsay Transit routes and other enhancements (bike racks, buses, new stops, etc.) has been submitted.
Ontario Connecting Links Program
This is a competitive program for Ontario municipalities that have a connecting link between provincial highways. Ontario will fund up to 90% of eligible capital project cost subject to a $3 million cap. The King Street Resurfacing and Downtown Omemee Reconstruction project scheduled for 2019-2021 has been submitted for the 2019 application intake.
Two upcoming capital grant opportunities under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program are the Community, Culture and Recreation Stream and the Green Infrastructure Stream. Release of both streams is expected later this year and the municipality plans to apply to both streams to the extent it is eligible.
Found also shared with Council three changes to existing capital grants that will impact future budgets:
1. The Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF), an allocation-based annual capital grant, will be frozen at the 2019 level of $1.8 million. The municipality typically allocates the grant entirely to the Rural Resurfacing capital program.
2. The Provincial Gas Tax Fund, which is allocated based on transit ridership and population, will remain at the current level of $574,000, and not double as previously announced. Part of the grant is put toward operating costs of the Lindsay Transit system, and part toward buses, transit stop upgrades and other capital expenses.
3. The City has received an additional $4.6 million one-time Federal Gas Tax payment. These funds are normally used by the municipality entirely for the Urban/Rural Reconstruction capital program for roads. Council has resolved to apply up to $2 million of this to accelerate roads infrastructure in the wake of a volatile 2019 winter freeze/thaw cycle that left roads in worse condition than expected. The remaining $2.6 million will be placed in the Federal Gas Tax Reserve for use at a future date.
On the changing financial landscape for the City, Found noted, “Our responsibility to ratepayers is to make prudent use of the funding we receive, ensuring we maintain a focus on the long-term financial health of the municipality. It is important to recognize the new capital grant opportunities are one-time in nature and will be offset by a number of upcoming and largely unknown cost pressures affecting all municipalities in Ontario.”