Norfolk County taking on $6 million in new debt

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Improved political oversight and accountability are expected outcomes from a major investment in Norfolk County’s treasury department.

On Sept. 22, Norfolk council approved the issuance of $21.3 million in debt for 2020, an amount which – accounting for debt repayment – will increase the county’s net debt load by $6 million.

Of this, $982,000 is earmarked for the replacement of the computerized financial system in the treasury division.

“At this time, the system implemented does have a number of limitations due to several customizations required to work with existing practices (and) procedures,” Shelley Darlington, Norfolk’s general manager of corporate services, said in an email.

“As part of our continuous improvement process, we are evaluating our processes to complement the system features and are targeting a number of integrations to allow for further automization and less manual work required by finance staff.

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“This will assist with more timely information to council that can better facilitate decision-making.”

Five years ago, former Norfolk councillors Doug Brunton and Noel Haydt expressed frustration during budget deliberations about council’s lack of real-time access to transactions and day-to-day activity in the municipality’s assorted accounts. They asked staff to correct this but were never completely satisfied with the result.

Members of the current council picked up the theme in 2019. Mayor Kristal Chopp said the current system is limited and that the pending upgrade will hopefully improve reportage.

With this week’s approval in hand, Norfolk’s fiscal agent will market and secure $12 million in debentures.

The refinancing will cover Norfolk’s 2020 road resurfacing program, which came to $2.4 million, and $8.6 million to refinance existing debt related to water and wastewater infrastructure in Port Dover, Port Rowan and Simcoe.

Norfolk this year will retire debt worth $15.3 million for a net increase in the county’s debt load of $6 million ($76 million at the end of 2019 versus $82 million at the end of 2020).

The new debt will consist of $12 million in 10-year debentures and another $9.3 million in 20-year debentures from Infrastructure Ontario.

Along with the $8.6 million in refinancing, Norfolk this year will take on $9.4 million in levy-supported debt, $8.4 million of which will be spent on roads, bridges, culverts and the like.

Another $3.3 million in rate-supported debt will be issued for improvements to water infrastructure in Delhi.

“Total annual payments will be approximately $2 million on the combined issuance,” Darlington said. “This was foreseen and captured in the 2020 budget. The county will be saving approximately $240,000 in annual interest payments on the refinance.”

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