The annual budget process begins on Wednesday with a review of all the non-tax supported and capital budget projects. Here’s the preview of that first, special budget meeting of city council, plus, the meeting from the day before.
Tuesday,October 25, 2016 – 6:00 pm
C-COW-2016.56 Solid Waste Services, Negative Variance – Closed meetings, no details are known.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 – 6:00 pm
PRESENTATION AND REPORT: 2017 Non-Tax Supported Operating and Capital Budgets – Presented by Peter Busatto, General Manager, Environmental Services; Brad Coutts, General Manager, Court Services; Rob Reynen, Chief Building Official; and, Kealy Dedman, General Manager, Engineering and Capital Infrastructure Services. In the overview, most areas are seeing minor increases but there’s also at least one fairly large increase.
The Ontario Building Code Administration is looking for an additional $320,000. They expect to see no increase in permit revenue for 2017, but they will need an increase in staff support costs for Code work even though they’re also reducing interdepartmental support; a small transfer from the reserve fund will balance the budget. (On that last point, it’s worth noting though that Building Code transferred three-quarters of a million dollars to reserves in 2015.) In 2017, the department will implement the electronic permit drawing project, recommend building bylaw amendments, review full year results of radon testing program, and implement new building code amendments.
Court Services meanwhile will see an increase in power of attorney charge volumes, an increase in parking charge volumes, and an increase in payments through collection agencies and online payments, so they will be looking for a smaller budget bump of $180,000. Among the new expenditures is $63,000 for a new full-time clerk to manage power of attorney payment processing and customer service requirements, as well court services will look at digital case management, explore remote language interpretation for trial courts, expand data upload capabilities for e-ticket solutions, and investigate options to upgrade Parking Ticket operating systems.
Obviously the budget items there will be a lot of eyes on are for Water, Wasterwater and Stormwater Services, who combined will see a budget increase of $5.3 million for 2017. Staff is forecasting a 0.8 per cent decrease in billable consumption in 2017 thanks to increased conservation efforts, and better building standards, but there are other challenges for the year to come as well. In Water, there will be capital financing, compensation and expansions, property tax adjustments and new servicing charges, a mandatory financial plan that requires sustainable funding, and the need to close the sustainable infrastructure funding gap.
Among the new expenditures for Water Services are $395,600 for a Water Permit Monitoring Program to provide more oversight of the City’s well fields to ensure sustainability and water quality. Another $109,500 will be allotted for a Corporate Analyst to implement added analytical rigor to improve the city’s financial integrity and sustainability, the cost for whom will be spread over all the non-tax supported departments. Next year, Water Services will also initiate a detailed cost of service study to evaluate true cost of water and wastewater services, complete treatment system upgrades at Burkes Well, construct Paisley-Clythe feeder main, recoat and resurface Speedvale water tower, and implement the updated Water Efficiency Strategy.
As for Wastewater Services, they are looking for an operating expenditures increase of $1,147,420, or 3.9 per cent, which doesn’t include expansions and capital financing. One of the new expeditures will be $54,800 for a shared Finance staffing position, and an increase of $500,000 for the growth and renewal and of capital financing. Other 2017 initiatives will include updating the Wastewater Treatment and Biosolids Management Master Plan, continuing digester cleaning program, and the beginning of a management and capital programs review.
This will be a big year for Stormwater as the $4 fee accompanying hydro bills will go into effect in January, resulting in $1.9 million being freed up from the tax base. (The City will still have to pay $200,000 per year for Stormwater fees for municipal properties though.) The Stormwater fee will go up each year by 60 cents until 2020 when the cost will be $5.80.
And that brings us to capital projects, which also come from the non-tax supported budget. This year, the City’s looking at Downtown Infrastructure Renewal at a cost of $6,598,000, Full Corridor Reconstruction Growth for $3,690,000, Full Corridor Reconstruction Renewal for $7,009,800, Stormwater Collection and Storage and Filtration for $7,265,000, Wastewater Collection for $1,150,000, Wastewater Plant and Equipment for $12,307,300, and Water Plant and Equipment for $12,307,300. That all adds up to a grand total of $50,327,400.
Delegation from the Grand River Conservation Authority – The GRCA covers the largest watershed in Southern Ontario, 300 kilometres from Dundalk to Lake Erie. For the record, that’s over a million people in over 50 municipalities. So why are they part of the budget talks for Guelph? Well, the GRCA assists member municipalities in the development of official plans and zoning by‐laws, and it provides technical advice on Planning Act applications. Currently in Guelph, the GRCA is focused on the restoration of the Niska property, the wind‐down of the residential tenancy program and hazard tree management.
So what does the GRCA have in mind for the its 2017 budget? For one thing, it’s 2017 expenditures will be down by $1.6 million; it’s 2017 budget is $29.4 million from $31 million in 2016, but obviously there are mitigating factors like the weather that have an effect on the final numbers. Of that $29.4 million, almost half is self-generated (48 per cent), while 38 per cent comes from municipal levies and communities that are part of the Grand River watershed like Guelph. The rest is made up by government grants (9 per cent), other municipal fees (3 per cent) and from reserve funding (2 per cent).
GRCA will be staying the course this coming year with 83 per cent of their budget going to operations with another 9 per cent going to capital. The remaining 8 per cent will go to special projects, which do not use the municipal levy and are offset 100 per cent by special funding sources. The $24.4 million for operating funds will go to watershed management, conservation areas, and corporate and communications expenses, while capital funds will also go to maintaining the conservation areas and building new Water Control Structures that will come to $2.6 million in the budget. The $2.4 million in special projects funding will go to Rural Water Quality Program future land dispositions, trees for Guelph, Children’s Water Festivals, at-risk species, protection from the Emerald Ash Borer, and more.