The city sent out an e-mail this morning that said, "Proposed Operating Budget maintains existing service levels," but naturally, there's some fine print in that very specific statement.
First of all there's that 3.05 per cent tax increase that's been floated to maintain the same level of service. In the press release, the city calls it the "cost of doing business," but that's unlikely to make those who supported Mayor Cam Guthrie's call to attach tax increases to the rate of inflation happy. As for the budget itself, "existing service levels" is a matter of opinion once you start looking at certain line items.
There will be some cuts in the budget, including a transfer to fund future investigations by the integrity commissioner, scaling back the hours of Service Guelph to keep them in line with City Hall, and, controversially, a service cut to Guelph Transit, scaling back Sunday and Holiday service to every hour versus the current level of every half hour.
On the flip side, Transit is proposed to get a new investment in the form of the Trapeze bus management system, which will replace NextBus whose contract is set to expire this year. New money is also being requested for new positions at City Hall staff including a second server specialist, a graphic designer, a fire prevention officer and staff for a transit control room as per the requirements of Trapeze.
The budget will be presented to council on March 5, while the March 11 meeting will be open to delegations to speak specific budget items.
Check out the press release from the City of Guelph below:
Guelph, ON, February 25, 2015 – The City has released its final budget document for Council and community to review. The proposed 2015 Tax-supported Operating Budget and Forecast will be presented by staff on March 5. Residents are encouraged to attend the presentation prior to delegating on March 11, 2015.
The $206,303,226 proposed budget reflects the City’s plan to sustain the delivery of exceptional services while remaining affordable and accountable to residents. The budget includes a 2.56 per cent base budget increase and a 0.49 per cent investment to enable the City to meet increased demands.
The total 3.05 per cent increase represents approximately a $99 annual increase for the average household with a property valued at $301,770. Combined with the approved changes in Guelph’s water and wastewater rates, the potential impact on the average household is $130 in 2015.
“The City has developed a proposed budget that meets the community’s and organization’s needs for the coming year,” says Al Horsman, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Services and CFO. “While the City has ensured the recommended investments are necessary, the proposed budget does not account for all increased demands placed on the organization from growth.”
For the second year, the City has used a predictable multi-year formula and model for determining the tax levy impact. The predictability formula combines inflationary pressures, volume or demand for City services, efficiencies and productivity improvements to provide a recommended maximum tax levy. For 2015, the maximum tax levy increase defined by the formula is 3.71 per cent; however the City is recommending a tax levy increase of 3.05 per cent.
“Municipalities are under pressure to do more with less,” says Horsman. “This year, the City’s focus is to maintain services—do the same with less. The increase in base budget accounts for inflation and the increased cost of purchased good and services. To increase or add new services would require additional investments and an increase to the tax levy.”
Coming up next
February 25 – Proposed Capital Budget presentation
February 26 – Proposed Local Boards and Shared Services
March 5 – Proposed Operating Budget presentation
March 11 – Public delegation night
March 25 – Council deliberates and approves Operating and Capital budgets
March 31 – additional meeting for budget approvals if necessary
All meetings will begin at 6 p.m. and be held in Council Chambers, City Hall, 1 Carden Street.
Follow the City’s budget news on guelph.ca/budget , Twitter ( @cityofguelph , #GuelphBudget) and facebook.com/cityofguelph.