This month’s general meeting of the Grand River Conservation Authority will be all about money. The 2023 budget and all its intricacies will be up for debate along with the usual business of the conservation authority including some planning for the new year, the purchase of new equipment, construction projects and appointments to various committees. Let’s take a look at what’s on the agenda.
NOTE: This meeting will be in a hybrid format, broadcast from the GRCA Admin Centre on YouTube starting at 9:30 am.
Correspondence – In the mailbag this month is a letter from Halton Regional Council noting how they’ve approved their portion of the levy increase in their 2023 budget, and an email exchange with a concerned park user seeking clarity about the campsite fee increase for this coming season.
GRCA Fee Policy Schedule 2: Conservation Areas (Amended) – In specific reference to that correspondence about campsites, this report notes that the 11 per cent increase on Premium Unserviced (Watefront) sites was not formally approved even as people who rent these campsites annually are now getting notifications that include the increase in the price quoted.
Grand River Notification Agreement Renewal – This doesn’t directly impact Guelph, but the GRCA is one of the parties that signed this agreement between the Province, Brantford, Brant, Haldimand, and the Indigenous communities Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. The agreement sets out guidelines for the sharing of information related to the conservation authority since Six Nations and the Mississaugas of the Credit are communities is the watershed, but are not technically part of the organization.
Minutes of the GRCA Board Composition Review Committee from February 10, 2023 – The committee discussed a motion passed at Hamilton council in 2022 to appoint members to the GRCA based on population. That’s one of those things that’s easier said that done due to the complicated manner by which board compositions are determined, including a set percentage of elected representation at the board. The committee talked out the various options, and staff are in the process of researching those options, which will be presented at a future meeting of the committee.
Current Watershed Conditions – Long story short, the wet and warm winter we’ve had in the last few months has been a source of relief to the watershed after a fairly dry 2022; the Guelph reservoir is even close to its normal winter levels. The long-term forecast for the next couple of months is predicting normal precipitation and temperatures, so it looks like these trends might continue.
Afforestation Services for Spring 2023 – Although the cost is already approved in the budget, the board has to vote to approve the allocation of three tree planting projects to the contractors who will perform them. The cost is covered two-thirds by the self-generated revenue from the authority and one-third from the general municipal levy.
2023 Replacement Tractors Purchase – After a public Request for Quotation process, the authority has decided to replace two tractors at the end of their life with two 2023 John Deere model 4052R tractors with cab and front loader from Premier Equipment Ltd. in Elmira for nearly $150,000. The cost of replacement will be covered out of the Motor Pool Reserve, and the old tractors will be sent to public auction with any proceeds going back into the Motor Pool Reserve.
2023 Replacement Vehicle Purchase – Like with the tractors, the authority needs to replace some other vehicles at the end of their life. A combined $290,593 will be spent from the Motor Pool Reserve on a 2023 Ford F150 XL Supercrew 4×4 Hybrid half-ton pickup and a 2023 Ford Transit 350 medium roof van from Parkway Ford, and two 2023 Dodge 3500 4×4 pickup trucks from Blue Mountain Chrysler.
2023 Road Site Preparation and Surface Treatment – The board will need to approved the awarding of a tender to Cornell Construction Limited of Brantford so that road site
preparation and surface treatment at Belwood Lake, Conestogo Lake, and the Elora Gorge Conservation Area can be done later this year.
Cash and Investment Status – As of the end of January, the GRCA has Notes Receivable in the amount of $54,658,499 with outstanding cheques written in the amount of $132,665.
Financial Summary – These financial statements include the actual year-to-date income and expenditures pending final approval at this very meeting (see below). The forecast for the year will likely see a nil surplus by the end of the fiscal year.
Weighted Voting: 2023 Budget and General Levy – When it comes to the budget for the GRCA, each member municipality pays in through a general levy, but the voting is weighed in order to prevent any one municipality from being able to pass something on it’s own. In the case of the GRCA, where 50 per cent of the membership is made up by reps from Waterloo Region, each of those 10 members get five per cent of the vote when compared to the two reps from Guelph who get 6.8 per cent each, and thus preventing Waterloo Region from setting direction for the authority has it’s own block.
Budget 2023 – The board will take a long walk through the multifaceted complexities of the budget, from the Audit Committee report to the approval of Financial Statements and the Report of the Auditor. There will also be the presentation of Budget Estimates for the Current Year, and the provision for borrowing while waiting for the money from the levies comes in (just in case).
In brief, the budget for 2023 is $35 .4 million, and since January there have been a few changes including an increase in rental revenue, an increase in Federal funding, and proceeds from land sales. There was over $462,000 in surpluses from the 2022, but all of that is being reallocated to various expenditures including insurance, recruitment, staff development, health and safety and labour relations.
Appointment of Auditors – The board will decide whether or not to endorse KPMG as the auditors for this fiscal year. (They’ll probably approve it.)
Appointments to Committees – The board will appoint members to the Audit Committee, and the Special Recognition Committee. They will also appoint Chair Chris White and CAO Samantha Lawson as the GRCA’s representatives to the Conservation Ontario Council.