LIVE BLOG: City Council Meeting for November 8, 2017

Council hears the presentation of the 2018 Tax-Supported Operating Budget. You can click here for the agenda from City Hall, and you can click here for the Politico preview. For the complete blow-by-blow of tonight’s council meeting, you can follow me on Twitter, or follow along below via Storify.


#GuelphBudget Meeting – November 8, 2017

Live blog from the meeting starting at 2 pm

  1. Mayor Guthrie has called the meeting to order. Staff presentations on the operating, tax-supported budget is the topic today.
  2. Guthrie notes that he will declare a conflict if anything baseball related comes up.
  3. Don’t want to follow the budget by reading tweets? You can also watch it on YouTube: 
  4. DCAO Mike Lee kicks off the presentations. Says there are budget pressures this year from higher levels requiring increases. The minimum wage bump to $14/hour in January is an example of this.
  5. Staff is recommending an increase of 2.19 per cent above the 2017 net tax levy operating budget be approved for a budget totaling $232,907,226. That’s base and does not take into account the expansion packages, or the proposed 1% increase in the infrastructure levy.
  6. Calendar:
    Nov 15: Board and Shared Services Budget presentation
    Nov 22: Public Delegations for Operating Budget
    Dec 5: Final vote on #GuelphBudget.
  7. City Departments are limited to 0.5% increase over 2017, with the exception of prior decisions by council, and corporate adjustments. Much of the increase comes from inflation, in other words, and trying to maintain the same level of service.
  8. Tara Baker is now presenting the initially introductory factors in the creation of this year’s budget.
  9. First Q of the day from Cllr Allt: Any areas where Guelph’s experienced outside pressures that don’t show up in the budget?
  10. Baker: WSIB is an area where’s no long term strategy for the moment.
    Lee: Dept spent a lot of time looking at min. wage increase affect. It’s > $300K, but not exact number as the effects are still in flux. There’ll be further effects on that in 2019.
  11. Allt asks about doing more with less as the city grows. Lee says that’s a big question, thinks there’ll be more clarity as the presentation goes on.
  12. Next up: Mayor Guthrie himself will present the Mayor and Council portion of the budget.
  13. For the record, I think this picture is supposed to be emblematic of the old axiom that there are two things you never want to see get made: laws and sausage. cc @CamGuthrie

    For the record, I think this picture is supposed to be emblematic of the old axiom that there are two things you never want to see get made: laws and sausage. cc @CamGuthrie
  14. Hofland asks about $9K removed for professional development last year, why is that being put back in this year. Guthrie says he’d like to wait for presentation of the expansions to answer.
  15. Next up: the CAO to present the CAO office budget.
  16. Thomson sites success via the customer satisfaction survey with 80% satisfied, as well as millions in infrastructure and the pending merger of Guelph Hydro as high points.
  17. The budget for the CAO budget is been shrunk by 8.5% for 2018 as Service Guelph moves to Corporate Services, and other adjustments, though there is a small increase in compensation.
  18. Next up: Scott Stewart to present the Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise budget, which is 15.7% of the total municipal services budget.
  19. Stewart mentions the success of the Vic Road Rec Centre renos, and notes that there’s clear direction from council to build a new library on the Baker Street.
  20. IDE: compensation and uncontrollable corporate costs driving increases says Stewart. Some offset from grants and capital funds (on tier 1 capital projects). The biggest increase though remain under Solid Waste. “Paying the right things in the right places now” Stewart observes.
  21. Cllr Gibson asks about facilities management. Specifically the grant funding and increase in consulting fees.

    Baker says there’s a net zero effect as the grants are paying for the consultation.

  22. Gibson asking now about the increase in purchased goods and purchased services under waste services.
  23. Stewart consulting with staff to find an answer to Gibson’s query. “We may need some of that Jeopardy music,” he wisecracks.
  24. The answer: increase in hydro and water utility, and other adjustments to make sure that the Solid Waste budget reflects the actuals.
  25. Hofland wants it made clear that there’s no increase to hourly parking, just permits. That is correct, says Stewart.
  26. Hofland asks for clarity around tipping fees. Wants to make sure that’s going to be communicated to constituents as there were a lot of calls.

    Staff: Yes, that will be communicated.

  27. Colleen Clack will now go over the Public Services budget. Parks & Rec, Transit, Fire, EMS, and Tourism are among the items that fall under this file.
  28. There’s a reduction in granting for 2018 because that money was for Canada150 activities. On the plus side, there was more revenue from sales at Sleeman Centre and Guelph Museums, and next year more $ from Min. of Health for EMS.
  29. Guthrie excuses himself so that Clack can answer Allt’s Q about rates and fees. These are set by market demand and are not affected by how much staff is paid. (In response to Allt’s Q about the affects of min wage increase on budget for staffing.)
  30. Gibson has a follow-up to that. Fees represent 1.5-2% increase even though the base budget increase is 2.2%. What’s the deal with that?

    Clack: City likes to introduce increases with it being in mind “What can the market bare”. It’s a balancing act. Don’t want drop in use.

  31. Gibson also asks if staff look at results of programming. Is there still as many folks sewing and doing other things. Clack says staff keeps on eye on that all year ’round.
  32. How well the Guelph Storm does has an effect on the bottom line. If Storm makes the playoffs, then there could be a significant positive variance.
  33. Allt notes that the costs in staffing in trail maintenance is the cost of climate change. Clack says that’s part of the expansion pack, will talk more about it later, but yes.
  34. Hofland asks about the $610K increase in fine benefits for EMS.
    Staff: tied to presumptive legislation for firefighters who, over time end up with various cancers or have a heart attack in the line of duty. # growing, and a pressure for all municipal budgets.
  35. Gibson asks about attendance and general admission at Guelph Museums. Wants to know the numbers outside of special events and classroom trips. That’s a takeaway Q.
  36. Next up. Trevor Lee will present Corporate Services budget. Give @TrevorWHLee a round of applause as this is his first #GuelphBudget as DCAO!
  37. Two big bumps for Corporate this year: taking over Service Guelph from CAO, and IT improvements.
  38. Cllr MacKinnon asks about spending for new council next year, is that part of the base, or is there additional funding for the turnout?
    A: Base.
  39. I.T. costs are one time only in order to bring licenses and software up-to-date. This is an annual payment, but there could be some leverage of cloud technologies to offset the costs in the future.
  40. Back to Treasurer Tara Baker. She wants here to show council the impact of debt financing. More debt, means less money for future capital projects.

    Back to Treasurer Tara Baker. She wants here to show council the impact of debt financing. More debt, means less money for future capital projects.
  41. Gibson asks where the stormwater levy comes from, is that a part of 13.4%?
    Baker: No, it’s in addition to that capital transfer.
  42. We’re about to go into expansions, but Guthrie suggests that this is a good time for a break. But first….
  43. Guthrie wants to debunk the “media” narrative that the proposed increase is 4.8%. The base budget is 2.19%, and then council will “build the budget” from there.
  44. The meeting is being called back to order.
  45. Actually, there;s now a pause as we wait for the imminent return of Tara Baker.
  46. We’re now presently going over the expansion packages for the budget starting with $9,050 in new spending for mayor and council for council training.
  47. Guthrie says he thinks it would be wise to increase the training back to the allotted amount. Necessary for the next council, whoever it is, to have the opportunities previously offered by council.
  48. Cllr Salisbury asks what happens to the money not spent on training?
    Guthrie: Goes to the bottom line.
  49. Only addition to the expansion back for CAO: a new internal auditor. Thomson says this person will look at cash handling and expense reports in response to Q from Cllr Billings.
  50. Thomson: the internal audit is protecting us from risk, and while it has found efficiencies, it really is about best practices.
  51. Cllr Wettstein says it took about 4 years to convince council of the importance of the internal auditor. If there’s a risk gap in a rapidly changing world, it’s the internal audit function.
  52. Guthrie asks Thomson if he thinks this is better as a permanent FTE vs contract. Thomson says its absolutely important to go FTE, most auditors go into the private sector for permanent employment.
  53. DCAO Stewart is now going over IDE expansions. Includes 4 new FTEs, plus more money for yard waste collection and to finish service reviews.
  54. Hofland asks about the possibility of monthly yard waste collection instead of every other week. Staff says change of frequency does not necessarily have the desired effect in terms of savings.
  55. Hofland asks how many households will be contributing to the multi-res waste collection. Staff: single family = 58%, multi-res = 42%.
  56. Hofland notes some of the 42% already get City garbage waste collection, but wants to know how many expansion of waste collection will help. Staff: 9,370 units in 182 properties
  57. Hofland: How would this affect diversion rates?
    Staff: ??? Would divert more mass from landfill, but it might not affect the actual rate itself.
  58. Gibson asks about the justification for an analyst for Corporate Asset Management when the CAM plan is done
    Kealy Dedman: It’s about more than just the plan, but also about implementation thru all city departments.
  59. Salisbury asks if there’s some flexibility in the yard waste schedule to maximize availability for low cost.
    Staff: Numbers based on 80% uptick rate, would have to see how it all plays out as the numbers based on current contracts. Wants to make service comparable to peers.
  60. Salisbury says there has to be some variating between weekly and monthly?
    Staff: Yes, there is a variance but staff hasn’t gone deep into the numbers to fully breakdown all the options. Will post that for Salisbury.
  61. Cllr Bell asks about the rate at which multi-res until being covered.
    Staff: Trying to add more units, but it’s slow going. Plus there’s private collection in places and ongoing growth to consider.
  62. Wettstein asks if the $100K for service reviews if that’s not just for IDE.
    Stewart: No, that money is for wherever the review is taking place. Next is Transit.
  63. Salisbury asks if the $100K for service reviews represents that they didn’t properly for the service reviews. Stewart said that there will be negative variance for that item in 2017 budget, doesn’t have exact deets in front of him.
  64. Guthrie notes that Barrie implemented multi-res coverage for 10K units for $250K per year. Guthrie asks why it’s costing Guelph twice as much when the numbers are nearly similar.
  65. Staff says it’s not apples to apples. Barrie operates its own landfill, so the costs are different in their case.
  66. Now we’re on to Public Services with 5 expansions for consideration.
  67. Much of the Public Services expansion is for EMS including an extra day shift with 4 new paramedics, which is needed in order to deal with increased demand.
  68. There’s also a request for another field supervisor in the northern most end of the Guelph EMS coverage area, plus nearly $323,000 for the Affordable Housing Financial Incentive Program, and $46,878 for seasonal staff for Parks and Rec.
  69. Clack says the seasonal money is for an extra two weeks in the “shoulder season”. This year, the City had to scramble to re-open the splash pad and other facilities because of the warm weather.
  70. There’s also a request for money for two new security guards to free up time bylaw officers by diverting them from security duties.
  71. Allt has concern and question about sustainability of the affordable housing fund. 6K houses not enough, and what of provincial program that would make Guelph program moot?
  72. Baker says she’s not sure of the impact of the recent announcement. Too soon to know what the effects are.
  73. On sustainability, this is good for about six years, plus there are chances for further funding from sources in upper levels of government.
  74. Salisbury has trouble reconciling the 33% administrative cost of the affordable housing program. The City is giving away money, people should be seeking it out. Clack says the money is for oversight and admin staff needed to gauge and follow-up on its successes/challenges
  75. Clack: An FTE has permanence, but a contract offers flexibility. The Affordable Housing Program offers the need for expertise that the city doesn’t presently have, so it’s a trial run.
  76. Salisbury on security guards: With 17.2% of budget spent on police, why can’t we allocate police to these issues?
    Clack: That would need to come up on board and services.
  77. Guthrie believes that bylaw has already explained the situation. Clack says it was answered after this came up in Committee and she will resend the answer from Guelph Police with council.
  78. Downer notes that a security guard is probably about half the cost of a police officer. Asks for a number in terms of hours in a year that bylaw is presently acting in a security capacity.
  79. Staff: No numbers, but call volumes. Right now, there’s a bylaw office posted daily at City Hall and at GCS for the late buses.
  80. Hofland asks about hours on security. This would be for two full-time security guards. Presently, the city contracts out for part-time security.
  81. Allt asks about best practices.
    Staff: Most municipalies have corporate security.
    Allt: What about rights of people?
    Staff: There is training and licensing to be security guards.
  82. Cllr Gordon asks about the root causes for beefing up security at city hall. Is there a way to address that?
    Staff: It’s not just about security, but about prevention.
  83. Gordon asking more generally about societal need from an increase in security.
    Thomson: Those questions are better suited for partners like Wellington County and GPS.
  84. Difference between the $49K in budget and the $100K figure is that the $49K is an increase in what the city is spending on security right now. So basically, the City is spending about one security guard’s salary worth of temp security right now.
  85. Now we’re talking about Corporate Services expansion.
  86. CS is looking for about $200,000 for 2 new programs; Career Path, which looks at increasing employee engagement & retention, & the Corporate Recognition & Diversity and Inclusion Training, which supports City obligations as employer under Human Rights and Accessibility Act.
  87. Also 4 new FTEs are also part of this expansion pack, each carrying between $100,000 to $159,000 in salary, including a Manager of Financial Strategy, a Senior Purchasing Agent, a WSIB Claims and Disability Co-ordinator, and a Learning and Development Co-ordinator.
  88. Salisbury says he’s seeing expansions for stuff he thinks City HR professionals should already know. What is the city losing by not going forward with hires? This will be answered on the ubiquitous message board.
  89. Guthrie calls another 10 minute break before we start discussions of the infrastructure levy…
  90. Guthrie calls the meeting back to order. Kealy Dedman, GM of Engineering and Capital Infrastructure, is presenting the one per cent increase proposed this year for the levy.
  91. Dedman right now going over a recap of the reasons why and intro of the levy last year.
  92. Questions about the levy starting with Gibson. Would like to see a prioritized list of projects to close the backlog?
  93. Dedman says there's a very long list, and this is how it breaks down.

    Dedman says there’s a very long list, and this is how it breaks down.
  94. Yarmouth St. Gibson points out that the asset renewal there can be timed with the construction there, could we see cost savings by timing this right?

    Dedman says there “absolutely” can be integration to make sure we’re not going in twice.

  95. Billings asks about the recent policy passed on dispersion of the levy. Baker confirms it was 90% renewal, 10% city building.
  96. Salisbury praises the excellence of the graph. Asking about life-cylce predictions, he notes that roads, sidewalks and paths might have widely different longevity.
  97. Dedman says within the Asset Management Plan there are different life cycles for different categories. They’re in the process of refining that, which is one of the things that the corporate asset management analyst previously mentioned would be doing.
  98. Salisbury: Are we moving towards better predictions or life-cycle costing?
  99. Dedman: We do do life-cycle costing, we had been judging on age alone which is a simple method, but the City is getting more sophisticated with how it’s aging these things.
  100. Guthrie notes that the last three speakers have been on-topic and wants to make sure they don’t veer off course.
  101. Cllr Bell thinks its unclear to the community what an extra 1% every year for 10 years what it is on their tax bill. He did some analysis on his own, but wants to provide some clarity to community and council about what it looks like after 10 years.
  102. I think what Bob Bell is getting at is that the city describes it as a “1% levy”, when it’s 1% per year for 10 years.
  103. Apparently the “budget board” is public. You can find it here: 
  104. Bell’s question will be addressed in the message board. Back to Gibson, who’s asking about guarantees of veracity of the analyst work. Dedman says it will be.
  105. Gibson says his estimates for the levy compounded over 10 years is about $1000/household. What might the impact be shrinking the timeline over 5 years? That will be followed up on.
  106. Hofland asks if there’s a way that the City can get more transparent on tax bills. How much more clear does Billings and Bell want it?
  107. Billings says she’d just like to see a levy line-up, and not rolling that money into the base budget. She had assumed that it was going to be separated out, but that’s not what the city is doing.
  108. Guthrie: I think staff understand what the ask is. The problem is that the 1% from this year is built into the 1% from the previous year. Thomson adds that ppl may want to see a year-to-date contribution on tax bill.
  109. Long story short, staff will look at the options and bring it back to council for discussion on Dec 5.
  110. Allt asks for comparisons with other cities with levies. Thomson says…
  111. Guthrie notes that this is a “fiscal cliff” that a lot of cities are facing. A lot of mayor’s are “sighing” too, he says.
  112. Wettstein knows he’ll get hit by seniors if they decide to accelerate the process as they will pay and young people get the benefits.
  113. Salisbury/Allt move the referral. Passes 12-0. (Leanne Piper is not here)
  114. Allt/Downer moves the recommendation for the levy. Passes unanimously.
  115. Guthrie thanks council for good discussion. Asks council to keep communications open with new questions and directions as we move forward.
  116. Meeting adjourned. Next budget meeting is on Wednesday Nov 15 and is about budget for local boards and shared services.

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