LIVE BLOG: City Hall Tries Again with 2016 Operating Budget.

Tonight, city council will try again with the 2016 Operating Budget. The capital budget was approved unanimously last night, but things started to get sticky when after hours of negotiation and debate, the final tally came in at $217,336,736 or 3.42% above 2015. Most of council balked at that number and the budget failed to pass by a motion of 5 to 8. So now what? Council will begin tonight, revising yesterday’s close votes in order to sort out again what they need, and what the city can afford. What will the final impact be?

Starting at shortly after 6 pm (there will be a delay as I make my way from CFRU to City Hall), I will be live blogging and tweeting from the city council meeting. You can follow my Twitter feed @adamadonaldson, or you simply follow along her through Storify. It might be a late one, and it might take more than one night, so stay tuned for all the developments/ announcements/ fireworks etc.

Budget 2: Electric Boogaloo!

Second night of Guelph City Council Deliberations about 2016 Budget

  1. Guthrie issues his thanks to staff and wishes everyone Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays.
  2. Pappert also thanks councillors for their commitment
  3. 70+ motions minuted this morning by Clerks office says Pappert.
  4. Guthrie turns it over to CAO @AnnPappert for some closing remarks. Thanks exec team 1st of all.
  5. Staff says a full review of Farmers Market operations coming in 2016.
  6. Piper wants to send extension of operating hours of Farmer’s Market committee. Guthrie wants a full consideration
  7. I believe the 7-6 approved #Guelph budget levy of +2.99% is significantly worse than the budget council rejected last night. #IVotedNo
  8. Apparently, @PhilAlltWard3 will second everything. You don’t even need to ask.
  9. Hofland moves to direct staff to work with poverty elimination task force to reconsider means to determine qualification for affodrable pass
  10. Hofland to move investigation into 55% transit subsidy. Policy approved in ’08 and never reviewed.
  11. Salisbury to move issue of leaf collection to committee.
  12. Bell moving that multi-residential waste collection be referred to committee.
  13. Remember, night began with $217,336,736 and 3,42%
  14. Budget passes 7-6 with Bell, Billings, Gibson, Guthrie, MacKinnon and Van Hellemond voting against.
  15. We’re back. In camera was for info on employee contracts, no action taken.
  16. @jrb883 It means no minutes are taken. Deals with confidential information.
  17. Council moves to go in camera. 10 minute break called.
  18. Guthrie has 1 in camera discussion. Says it will be very quick.
  19. Salisbury tired that we’re not facing reality. Going to spend the money anyway if its not budgeted.
  20. Salisbury notes that if winter control money isn’t spent it comes back.
  21. Staff: in the grand scheme will all health and safety and strategic initiatives it fell below the line.
  22. Allt wants to know why winter control didn’t get more priority.
  23. Wettstein points out that staff didn’t recommend, but wants council to be aware
  24. Allt concerned that we will draw down reserves if we keep going in this fashion, and since we’re not adding much to reserves…
  25. Staff: this is the first year where actuals on winter control have been provided,
  26. Following up on that, Salisbury wants to revisit winter control. RE: negative variances.
  27. Motion fails 2-11, directing staff to find $250K efficiencies.
  28. City staff says little to no flexibility in any city department budget, and extraordinary events difficult to address.
  29. Gibson: the secret to finding more efficiencies was service rationalization, and didn’t vote for it.
  30. Finding efficiencies is inheritable parts of management, staff.
  31. No such thing as discretionary spending right now., staff.
  32. There is little to no flexibility in current budgets, hence variances, staff.
  33. Guthrie clarifies that he is not suggesting staff is inefficient, but simply wants to bring tax increase down.
  34. Billings concerned about this being the 3rd year in a row with negative variance
  35. Billings asks Piper the budget situation when the $500K marker came up.
  36. Billings asks Piper the budget situation when the $500K marker came up.
  37. Wettstein can’t support adding an “arbitrary” efficiency number on top of a difficult process.
  38. Piper willing to support any plan that’s realistic, but worried that we’ve picked staff to the bone.
  39. Piper restates that the low hanging fruit’s been picked.
  40. Piper says that staff rose to the challenge to find $500K in the past. This year, every department met 1% challenge.
  41. Salisbury challenges that this is questioning staff dedication to frugality. Guthrie asks for him to retract. He does.
  42. Salisbury looking for staff commentary on variance.
  43. Guthrie thinks it can be reached thru operations. Staff already doing efficiency but wants to challenge them
  44. Guthrie now proposes $250K efficiency target in the year 2016.
  45. Guelph’s operating budget now whittled down to 3.02 per cent, from 3.42 to begin the evening.
  46. Guthrie looking at Open Government Action Plan, $264.2 for 4 apps. Guthrie wants to reduce by $50K and get 2 apps.
  47. Piper reminds that there are community partners on this project. It would be a disappointment
  48. McKinnon wants to reconsider for $120,900 community paramedicine.
  49. Clerk: Rules of procedure on Operating has been waved, council could do same for Capital.
  50. MacKinnon suggests if maybe transit capital should be revisited.
    Guthrie: Capital passed, there will be procedural motions to go back in
  51. $155,104 to go back into the budget on tix/passes price freeze.
  52. $155,104 to go back into the budget on tix/passes price freeze.
  53. Piper says since we’re not improving service in ’16, so why raise prices now? Wait for ’17 when changes come. (@steven_petric was right)
  54. No, council accepted staff recommendations for those increases, they went diff way with cash and affordable passes 
  55. Technically we’re now into hour 10 of 2016 budget deliberations.
  56. Staff trying to figure dollar impact of passes/tix freeze alone.
  57. 0.15% increase in total on the tax rate to keep transit fares at 2015 levels. Most of that already passed.
  58. Piper wants to return all transit rates to 2015 levels. Monthly passes and tix.
  59. Basically Gordon asked for $100K in matching from city to library reserve. Voted yes last nite, took back 2nite 
  60. Wettstein says there’s student housing in 75% of the city.
  61. Wettstein: Stakeholders agree this is better than licensing. The only place they came together.
  62. Downer concerned about underground housing. Unsafe.
  63. McKinnon says taking out this position will mean more costs on social housing.
  64. Staff: all city programs would be citywide: IOW not just about university area
  65. Allt wants to talk licensing. It would have been citywide and not regional?
  66. Cost benefit analysis staff thought the inspector was the better way. Licensing issue very polarized.
  67. Staff currently outlining the responsibilities of the zoning inspector. Seems like a lot.
  68. Councillors Piper and Wettstein fear licensing regime would be demanded if zoning inspector position not brought in.
  69. Salisbury asks if we’re in bad faith by not following through with the approval of Zoning Inspector.
  70. Wettstein concerned that not approving this position might affect other stakeholders in ‘Town and Gown’ committee.
  71. Piper says there’s anecdotal evidence about less noise, but there’s no data. The position was brought up in lieu of licensing.
  72. Progress made on some of the elements, but there’s no data on if there have been improvements in ’15.
  73. Context: came out of the deliberations about rental licensing.
  74. If the problem persists in 2017, he’ll be happy to accept.
  75. Guthrie reiterates that things are getting better with by-law compliance, hence no need for position.
  76. Guthrie now moving the removal of zoning inspector at $125K.
  77. If we leave everything as it is, our sidewalks will be up to date by 2018
  78. Current spilt one position for sidewalk repair in 2016, 2 for 2017. Savings $141.5K
  79. Wettstein says he’s comfortable with 2 year plan (voted against $434K yesterday)
  80. Allt says this is about safety. He will vote against.
  81. Guthrie would love to get it done in 1, but wants to lower tax rate
  82. Wettstein says he’s comfortable with 2 year plan (voted against $434K yesterday)
  83. Piper how feasible is 1.5 FTEs for that sidewalk budget?
  84. Guthrie wants to phase in $434K for sidewalks over two years instead one.
  85. Clerk: Downer and Guthrie have to play musical chairs b/c votes are tied to seats.
  86. Guthrie says this is not an anti-library move. It’s just not required for this budget and last minute.
  87. Guthrie now makes motion to remove library reserve of $100K. Moved by Gordon last night to match $100K raised by Friends of GPL
  88. MacKinnon moves to remove GIS Program Manager. Fails 6-7
  89. Motion to remove Info and Acces Coordinator. Nearly $87K. Fails 6-7
  90. MacKinnon has other motion. Guthrie says he might make a motion soon to break it up
  91. MacKinnon moves to remove Trails Technician. Council approved 1 of 2 last night. for $108K
  92. Gordon asking if we do not have an arborist on staff. Staff: nope, we’ve got them. Have 5, need 6
  93. MacKinnon moves to remove electrician position. Staff originally proposed 2
  94. 3.06% now the magic number. By my reckoning about $817K cut so far.
  95. $163,167 saved from the Removal of 1 Road and Right of Way Supervisor.
  96. Now vote to remove 1 of the supervisors. (staff wanted 3 for 24 hour coverage)
  97. Removal of all 3 Roads and Right of Way Supervisor fails 4-8
  98. @collier4ward2 @CamGuthrie @ward6mark @adamadonaldson my position on the affordable bus pass (increased without my support) proves otherwise
  99. Motion to remove trails supervisor for $137K fails 6-7
  100. MacKinnon wants to remove sports field operator. No seconder
  101. Vote to take out mechanic trainee position. fails 5-8
  102. Issue similar to what was discussed yesterday. May not be going in camera.
  103. Guthrie says there’s no necessity to move back in camera.
  104. Salisbury wants to move in camera. Might be exposure to liability.
  105. Affordable bus pass reduction defeated 9-4, putting $79,800 back into revenues. Budget increase now at 3.14 per cent
  106. Piper asks if this is a position we’re contracting out. A: No it’s not.
  107. Vote on returning affordable pass to 2015 rates passes 9-4 with Gibson, Guthrie, MacKinnon and Van Hellemond against.
  108. Van Hellemond says a cash fare is $2.80. That’s cost of ticket. Cash fare is 16% says we’ve made too much out of $4 hike.
  109. Salisbury says he’s uncomfortable when council gets into operation details and not policy.
  110. Salisbury says he wants to follow recommendations of poverty elimination task force.
  111. McKinnon says politely that he’s disappointed.
  112. Mackinnon on clarity: against raising $.25 for cash, but for raising $8 affordable pass.
  113. 37.50 adults, 32 youth, 30 seniors = $79,808 back into the budget.
  114. Still waiting for numbers from staff. Absolutely no pressure here. 😉
  115. Staff trying to figure out how the numbers are affected by keeping the affordable pass cost at 2015 levels.
  116. Piper votes to return Affordable Pass cost to 2015 levels.
  117. Vote passes 7-6 – Bell, Billings, Gibson, Guthrie, MacKinnon, Van Hellemond voted against.
  118. Point of order. Guthrie asks Gibson to take it back.
    Gibson: votes speak for themselves.
  119. Gibson tells crowd, we just voted to take out $500K now voting to put in $250K. Gibson calls it a coup
  120. McKinnon can’t support motion that doesn’t get us to 55% subsidy.
  121. Salisbury didn’t not vote for the budget b/c of fare increase, but it was part
  122. Salisbury wants to make a motion to make the cash fare increase for Guelph Transit back to $0. Allt seconds
  123. Salisbury asks the best way to find each motion.
  124. Hofland says there now the proper understanding in the building.
  125. Seems like we’re about to get back to business here. #GuelphBudget
  126. Correction: Arborist position, not inspector arborist removed from budget. Latter defeated Wednesday night.
  127. I wish some of our councillors spent as much time and energy bettering Guelph as they did orchestrating political attacks for this evening.
  128. @JasonDodgeWard3 let me guess. The usual suspects. They need to be taken down a notch or two. They don’t own the fucking city.
  129. That’s right. What’s lacking is a road map/order to which each motion will be called I think 
  130. I think it has to do with lack of agenda. Most council meetings have motions listed on agenda b4 hand. 
  131. Council has given back $541K so far. 2 items: service revitalization review & Arborist position
  132. By far the most pre-planned disrespectful council meeting I have ever attended. I am not a proud Guelphite tonight.
  133. I think it has to do with lack of agenda. Most council meetings have motions listed on agenda b4 hand. 
  134. Hofland says council at a disadvantage b/c they haven’t been able to get organized for meeting. Wants 10 minute break.
  135. $107,000 inspector arborist position out of budget, 7-6 vote, despite Councillor Piper’s concern over emerald ash borer.
  136. I steadfastly believe that 2016 service rationalisation is an essential component for #Guelph‘s effective/efficient operation. #IWillMissYou
  137. Salisbury asks if we need the vote. But he didn’t have the floor.
  138. Guthrie says he has a few motions, but has been challenged and is good either way.
  139. Salisbury says it seems unusual to see the mayor control the agenda.
  140. Allt asks if maybe other councillors should get to make their motions first. Guthrie disagrees. Allt challenges.
  141. Piper points out that there was an inspector position that was denied last night.
  142. Guthrie makes motion to not approve Arborist. $107K in savings. Gibson seconds.
  143. Vote to remove service rationalization. 11-2. Bell and MacKinnon voted against.
  144. Gibson says $1.6 million added on due to 7-6 vote last night.
  145. Gibson says he’s been vocal wanting it, hopes it’s not lost.
  146. Wettstein says he’ll support, but he’s disappointed.
  147. Bell says we won’t be supporting. A root problem that needs to be resolved and waiting will make it worse.
  148. Bell: there’s a root problem that the @cityofguelph is trying to do too much.
  149. Salisbury wants a referral to keep the revitalization in mind for 2017.
  150. Guthrie says he’d like to have service revitalization, but willing to give it up to keep rate increase low.
  151. Guthrie: we need compromise to rein in the tax increase figure. Service rationalization has been controversial
  152. Guthrie: there are hills to die on, and I don’t want to die on this one.
  153. Wettstein concerned that we need a number to reach for before discussion
  154. Wettstein wants to know why this is the item. $434K is the answer.
  155. Downer chairing now so Guthrie can make motion.
  156. Guthrie moving to take out service rationalization. Gibson seconds.
  157. We’re in the Delorian making amendments again, says Guthie. #basically
  158. 9/ 2 Licensed electricians for $180.4K. 1 for $90.2 passed
  159. 8/ There was also a close vote for 2 Trail techs at $216.4K. 1 for $108.2K passed.
  160. 4/ $86.8K For Information and Service Co-ordinator.
  161. 1/ Some of the close votes from last night’s council…
  162. Yes, I will be back in council to live tweet tonight’s continuation. Will be late this b/c meeting starts at 6pm when @OS_Guelph ends.


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