About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

There Will Be Budget

It was the moment we've all been waiting for. After a year that stretched city resources to the limit in the wake of a global recession, what was the 2011 city budget going to look like? Optimistic was the watch word of the evening, perhaps with the word "cautiously" prefacing it. In brief, the City is returning much of the cuts made in the 2010 budget - including those five days off that caused so much controversy - as well as hiring additional hands at city facilities. On the downside, this is going to cost taxpayers 5.67 per cent more for 2011.
On the other hand that could be as much as 8.8 per cent. In a presentation by Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig to City Council, he said that revenues were returning "somewhat" to pre-recession levels, and that in 2011, revenues would increase by about 3.13 per cent. Loewig called the 5.67 per cent "a truly sustainable budget figure. [...] It represents a series of compromises and deliberations over many months." 
One of those compromises is no 20-minute transit service in the summer months, and no stat-holiday service either. “If I could have everything, they would be in there,” lamented executive director of operations and transit Derek McCaughan at a press briefing after the council meeting. Still, it looks like there will be an additional cash fare increase of 10 cents in order to help collect $200,000 worth of the $1 million increase needed in transit revenue. Most of that will come via the changes in the U-Pass for University of Guelph students ($700,000) and another $90,000 will be raised through increased parking fees.
A lot of the new money will go towards staffing though with 87.5 new full-time equivalency positions being created with 23 of those going to the new south-end emergency station. But with so many new capital projects coming online this year - the transit hub, the new Civic Museum, Market Square, Organic Waste Plant - as well as the annualization of the POA court and the East-End Library, much of the increase is going to making sure that those facilities are staffed and operating. 
Another interesting matter to come out of last night's budget discussions is the need of the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Unit for new facilities in Guelph and Orangeville for the grand total of $22 million. Under normal circumstances, the Guelph share of that tab would come in at $2.5 million, but because the Province is refusing to fund any new capital projects - which it normally would considering that it covers 75 per cent of the WDGPH's budget - Guelph could have to pay as much as $10 million for the construction of new facilities. Loewig and Mayor Karen Farbridge both said that the City is seeking an audience with the Ministry of Health to see if there's any movement on the Province's decision. In the meantime, the new facility is off the books for the 2011 budget. 
So what happens next? The full budget presentation will unfurl on back-to-back meeting nights on February 14th and 15th, with delegations being heard on February 22nd and a full vote from council on both the operating and capital budgets on March 2nd. The full budget will be available for the public to see on the City's website and hard copies will be available at public library branches.

1 comment:

Tara Sprigg said...

Adam, one point of clarification: it's true the proposed 5.67% increase represents a series of compromises, but it still does not represent a truly sustainable budget. The "Building a Better Budget" document explains that 14% is closer to what is needed to adequately address community needs. However, the City knows affordability for taxpayers is important, so the proposed increase sits at 5.67% and begins to balance affordability with sustainability.