City Council Preview – What’s on the Agenda for the November 15 Meeting?

It’s the final piece of the budget puzzle for 2018: the budget for Guelph’s subsidiary boards and shared services.The library, public health, the police, and county services are all up for presentation and discussion in the final council meeting before we hear from the general public.
2018 Local Boards and Shared Services Budgets – Of the total City of Guelph, Tax-Supported Operating Budget, which comes in at about $232.9 million, 17.2 per cent is for the police, 10.2 per cent is for County Services, 3.9 per cent is for the library, 1.7 per cent is for Public Health, and 0.7 per cent is for the Elliott Community. The rest of the money goes to municipal services, which was presented at the November 9 meeting, but for the boards and services, the overall increase from 2017 is 0.65 per cent for a full budget of about $1.49 million; there’s also potential expansions of $567,409 for an additional impact of 0.25 per cent. On a per board basis, this is what that means…

Guelph Public Library: Of the total shared services budget, the Guelph Public Library costs the City just under four per cent of the total amount, and it has to get by without any user fees (unless you count late charges). For 2018, the Library is asking for a 3.8 per cent increase over last year for a total budget request of nearly $9.2 million. That extra money will cover to cover a slight increase in purchased services, and an increase in salary, wages and benefits.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health: There are no exact numbers for the Health Unit budget because the budget itself is in closed session due to ongoing union negotiations. As consequence, the proposed budget has not yet been approved by the Health Unit’s own board, although it has been presented to City Treasurer Tara Baker. But without the hard numbers, we do have the percentages. The City of Guelph’s commitment to the WDGHU is 15 per cent, with nearly 65 per cent coming from the Government of Ontario, and the rest coming from Dufferin County, Wellington County, and other sources. More than three-quarters of the Health Unit’s budget is reserved for salaries and benefits, with 13 per cent going to building occupancy, 3.5 per cent for I.T., 1.3 per cent for travel, and 6.6 per cent for other line items. New Ontario Standards for Public Health Programs and Services, Report of the Expert Panel on Public Health, Report of the Public Health Work Stream, and other legislative changes will have an effect on on the Health Unit, but they’re not budgeting for a funding increase from the Ontario government in 2018. Details to follow…

Downtown Guelph Business Association: This was a big year for the DGBA with council approving border expansion, 6-day-a-week garbage collection, and the approval of the construction of a new parkade on Wilson Street; the DGBA has also continued a new found tradition of balanced books, with a small surplus being expected by the end of the year. So, with that, the Business Association is asking for an increase in tax levy for 2018 to the tune of $118,000 with a projected total income of $684,750 for next year, which is nearly $100,000 over 2017. The increased spending is for payroll, marketing and promotion, revitalization, and general and administration. The one line item taking a cut is $2,300 for marketing and promotion.

Guelph Police Services: The Police Services budget will see an increase of just over three per cent between 2017 and 2018, for a net budget of $40,228,100 for next year, which is about $1.2 million more than for the current year. The increase is credited to a couple of factors including collective bargaining agreements, utility and vehicle costs, and the growth of the City of Guelph. That last one means potentially four new Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions to help with coverage, oversee health and wellbeing of staff, proactive policing, and presumptive legislation concerning PTSD. The Police also have a number of expansions for consideration including more frontline officers, a business plan survey, communications and tech updates, and a website redesign. But it’s not just more spending, as the Police board worked with city staff to find around $178,000 in savings.

The Elliott Community: The struggles of Elliott continues, but things are continually looking better year-after-year. For instance, the amortization period for the Elliott’s building as been increased in order to have an impact on operating costs by reducing them. That effect is almost a million dollars saved, $896,003 or 8.5 per cent over 2017. The total savings though is 2.7 per cent over the 2017 budget because employee costs are going up 4.9 per cent, or almost $468,800 more over this year. The City of Guelph’s portion of funding for the Elliott is 16.2 per cent with 55.1 per cent coming from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and 27.4 per cent from Resident Accommodation. In dollar amounts, Guelph’s share of the 2018 budget is just over $1.3 million, which constitutes a 2 per cent increase over 2017.

County of Wellington Shared and Social Services: So the good news is that starting on January 1, property taxes will be exempt on County-owned properties, which frees up nearly $2 million in expenditures for social housing. Another $184,000 will be saved on education taxes for those same properties, and that revenue has already been earmarked for future repair work on houses. That brings us to the 10 year plan for improvements and upgrades, which will feature some $33.5 million in spending for social housing, and will also be 100 per cent provincially-funded. At the same time, the Province has kicked in an extra $300,000 for the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative, and rent revenue has increased 1.5 per cent after a better than expected 2017, while a reorganization of staff has resulted in $118,000 in savings on staffing, which is roughly equal to 0.4 of an FTE.

And there are a lot of shake-ups across County services in the new year. Children’s Early Years will see a major expansion with 100 per cent Provincial funding for the Centres themselves, but there will still be some additional costs in administration and staffing, like the three new positions that Child Care needs at a cost of $94,000. At the same time, $1.5 million in renovations need to be done at 129 Wyndham St on the third floor where Early Years is based in order to meet the growing need. The County will cover two-thirds of those renovation costs, with $787,000 coming from the City of Guelph itself.

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