$58M for roads and sewers won’t address infrastructure deficit

A flagger looks on as construction on Wyandotte St. E. between Devonshire Rd. and Gladstone Ave. continues. (Photo by Adelle Loiselle.)

Windsor’s 2019 city budget puts millions of dollars aside to fix crumbling roads and sewers, but do not be surprised if some roads go untouched in the year to come.

City council approved a 1.85 per cent increase in the budget Monday night, after whittling down the 3.3 per cent increase proposed in the draft document. Councillors trimmed several items, including a $1 million cut to the Windsor Police Service budget.

“They got some grant funding to offset some of the cost they thought were going to have to be paid by the tax base,” said Onorio Colucci, who was the City Treasurer before taking on his current role as Windsor’s chief¬†administrative officer.

The increase for this year is the first time in eight years city council approved an increase in the budget, and it is still below inflation at 2.3 per cent.

“That’s been great for taxpayers cumulatively. There’s been $650 million saved over that time frame. The average taxpayer is probably paying about $700 less than they would have had the taxes over those years increased by about inflation,” said Colucci. “But you can only do that for so long and then obviously inflation catches up.”

Huron Church Rd. leading up to the EC Row Exwy. Eastbound on-ramp.

Huron Church Rd. leading up to the EC Row Exwy. Eastbound on-ramp. (photo by Mike Vlasveld)

The budget includes $58 million for road and sewer projects this year, and another $21 million to fix sidewalks, curbs, install new traffic lights and add public transit infrastructure.

Like most cities across North America though, Windsor is only keeping its head above the water when it comes to infrastructure spending. This year’s contribution is a drop in the bucket compared to all the projects that need to be addressed, but will not because of a lack of funding.

“Well, it’s in the hundreds of millions [of dollars] for sure,” said Colucci about the city’s infrastructure deficit. “We are coming back this summer with a detailed analysis of our assets, and we’ll have refined numbers, but needless to say, it’s a very large number.”

Across Canada, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates the infrastructure deficit is now as much as $270 billion.

Other expenditures in the budget include $2.5 million to fix up Peche Island, $400,000 to help diversify the local economy, and another $235,000 for the Bright Lights Windsor festival in January.