After two really long nights of deliberations, the Guelph Budget for 2011 was passed, but not without some serious contention for this young council. On the plus side, the property tax rate was slashed down to a more reasonable 3.14 per cent (or pi), but on the on down side, councillors had to raid city reserves in order to get us there. Here's the savings and spendings for the night as per the Guelph Mercury:
- no social services data analyst - $51,000 saving
- use the parking reserve to pay for infrastructure repairs - $1.3 million off the tax base
- use the rate stabilization reserve to lower taxes - $700,000 off the tax base
- cut Green Infrastructure (trees, etc) - $100,000 saving
- cut Downtown Assessment Growth Fund - $265,000 saving
- increase special events parking downtown from $2 to $5 - $71,000 in revenue
- 10 per cent increase in library late fees - $25,000 in revenue
The City itself was quick to laud its efforts. Here's the press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GUELPH, ON, March 3, 2011 – Guelph City Council approved the 2011 tax-supported operating budget at $167,037,121, a 3.14 per cent increase over 2010. The capital budget was approved at $4,145,000. The impact on an average household in Guelph assessed at $281,700 will be roughly $67 this year.
For the last few years and in 2010 in particular, the City responded to economic pressures by passing budgets that focused primarily on affordability. To keep tax increases low, or affordable, the City reduced services, postponed some important investments and reduced its savings.
This year the City will reinstate may of the services that were cut in 2010 and begin to ensure Guelph’s budget is realistic and more sustainable given the level of service residents expect.
City Council heard over 20 public delegations during this year’s budget process, many of whom objected to the City's plan to increase transit fares while offering 30-minute service frequency in June, July and August and no service on statutory holidays in 2011.
City Council voted to restore 20-minute summer service frequency, and increase cash fares in September to partially offset the $68,000 cost of delivering holiday transit service on Canada Day, John Galt Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and Labour Day. "Less than 10 per cent of our riders use cash,” says Michael Anders, General Manager, Guelph Transit. “In September, an adult cash fare would increase 25 cents to three dollars.”
The budget was also adjusted to reflect the fact that Guelph’s new inter-modal transit terminal will open in November.
“The cost of opening and operating several new community facilities is having a big impact on this year’s budget,” says City Treasurer, Margaret Neubauer. “The City will move ahead with plans to open the new Civic Museum, the east end library branch, Guelph’s Provincial Offences Court, the inter-modal transit terminal, Market Square, the Organic Waste Processing Facility, new parks and trails and the South End Emergency Services Station in 2011.”