LIVE BLOG: City Council Meeting for December 5, 2017

The 2018 budget process wraps up today! (Unless it doesn’t, in which case it will begin again tomorrow and then be decided.) 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 – December 5, 2017

Live blog from the meeting starting at 2 pm

  1. Mayor Guthrie is calling the meeting to order now.
  2. Disclosure of Pecuniary Interest and General Nature Thereof
    Cllr MacKinnon as Downtown Business owner can’t discuss DGBA biz fees…
  3. Guthrie adds that he will not be proceeding with his purchasing of the @GuelphRoyals as it seems to have been interfering with the execution of the budget process this year.
  4. DCAO @TrevorWHLee kicks things off with opening remarks. Says council has been thorough and has asked the tough questions through the whole process.
  5. Agenda:
    1) Base tax-supported budget.
    2) Possible expansions.
    3) Infrastructure levy
    4) Budget impact from Ontario regs
    5) Local Boards and shared services.
  6. Guthrie asks if there’s anything new that council should know about before beginning. There is nothing.
  7. Hofland and Van Hellemond put the recommendation on the floor.

    Hofland and Van Hellemond put the recommendation on the floor.
  8. Vote on Hofland motion fails 7-6 with Allt, Downer, Gordon, Hofland, Piper and Salisbury voting in favour
  9. Downer moves, and Gordon seconds, $100K in additional funding to the @GuelphNSC.
  10. Cllr MacKinnon moves an amendment that the Police Services budget be reduced by $100K. Gordon seconds. Guthrie clarifies that the two are tied. MacKinnon says yes.
  11. Allt asks for point of order: given that the police is a “discreet” budget, is such an arrangement like this in order? Guthrie says it is.
  12. MacKinnon notes that the cause is important, but a lot of important causes so to make an exception one has to be tied to the other.
  13. Allt says he has to speak against the motion, GNSC is a community enhancement org, and the WDG Public Health spoke in favour of GNSC too, so why not take the $100K from them too.
  14. Cllr Piper encourages other councillors to vote against MacKinnon amendment. There’s a process question too, Police went through own process and can’t willy-nilly cut $100K from that budget.
  15. Cllr Gordon makes the point that cutting from police while adding to GNSC is not a gain in services, it’s just keeping things the same.
  16. Cllr Gibson congratulates MacKinnon for asking the tough question, but will not support the amendment.
  17. Cllr Wettstein says that council should have to find savings in the base budget, if council is considering this the priority they want to make it.
  18. Amendment fails. MacKinnon, Bell, and Salisbury vote in favour.
  19. Van Hellomond asks for clarity: wasn’t the $100K supposed to go to the hiring of staff and not programs? Downer says yes, but it was a matter of administration time for the current staff was eating into the work they want to do.
  20. Wettstein puts forward another amendment, notes that many of the groups that spoke in support getting funding from the province. He’s prepared to support, but council has to find a place in social services budget. So $100K from affordable housing reserve.
  21. Cll MacKinnon seconds Wettstein amendment.
  22. Allt says that this isn’t a housing issue, and council is pitting some sections of the budget against others, which creates a negative impression.
  23. Hofland says this sounds messy, Wettstein says that budgeting is about priorities and some are going to get passed and others won’t. Hofland says it feels like they’re trading priorities for the most vulnerable.
  24. Salisbury asks staff advice on impact of taking $100K from affordable housing. DCAO Clack says she thinks they need to have all money for community benefit agreements in one location. DCAO Stewart says reserve feeds into a couple of areas.
  25. Gordon ssays he can’t support and thinks council is missing the message: the community sees such value in the operations of GNSC that they’re willing to pay for it. Will get more than $100K back in benefits.
  26. Cllr Bell says that for years of talking about affordable housing, and $100K per year was a “small slice” of what needs to be done. Still doesn’t think this is appropriate though.
  27. Gibson says that this has been bit of a catch-up game for the last couple of weeks. Notes that GNSC was meant to be an arms length org from city hall, and it’s a difficult world for non-profits and it seems that the City has become a backstop.
  28. Hofland offers point of order. Thanks Gibson for great history lesson, but this is about Wettstein’s $100K sway from affordable housing reserve.
  29. Gibson says he was about to get to the amendment. Staff held to their budget constraints, has his own amendment, but notes that this money has to come from somewhere and will support Wettstein amendment.
  30. Guthrie asks again when the CBA comes due for GNSC? Two years.
  31. Wettstein amendment passes 7-6 with Allt, Bell, Downer, Gordon, Hofland and Salisbury voting against.
  32. Gibson moves that the GSNC submit an audited financial statement to the city. DCAO Clack says it’s not direct requirement for audit, but there is more reporting. She imagines though they’re available.
  33. Bell says he was going to support the motion, but he won’t at the expense of affordable housing. Allt says council has to believe in the principal, but if council is going to start trading horses, we’re going to be here a long time today.
  34. Hofland will support, but has to express her disappointment about taking that money from affordable housing. Why not take it out of yard waste pick-up (for example)?
  35. Main motion passes as amended 12-1. Bell the only one voted against.
  36. MacKinnon forwards motion for $15,500 for streaming and archiving of video for council, even after the motion failed last year. MacKinnon says it will be a next great step for local democracy. Van Hellemond seconds.
  37. DCAO Lee says the benefit will be to be able to be self-sustaining in terms of documenting meetings on video without relying on Rogers. Reminder: Several #GuelphBudget meets were live-streamed on iPhones to YouTube.
  38. City clerk says the production will obviously not be the same as Rogers, no staff hours will be based on both. Salisbury asks if this will be for when Rogers doesn’t broadcast, or for every meeting. O’Brien says it can do both.
  39. Salisbury asks if the City has asked about how Rogers *feels* about the City broadcasting for themselves. O’Brien says Rogers has been limited in terms of their capabilities hence the dropped meetings.
  40. MacKinnon motion passes 11-2 with Allt and Hofland voting against. City will be setting up its own dedicated live-stream of council meetings so, Yay democracy!
  41. Adjusted base: we’re now at 1.75 from 1.74.
  42. Local board expansions. Guthrie wants to talk about the $70K for library security. Guthrie wants to support, but wants council to consider the one-year funding out of rate stabilization. Not sure he’s comfortable with that though.
  43. Cllr Salisbury moves on behalf of the mayor, seconded by Van Hellemond.
  44. Downer says that council has to be careful with the wording of the budget. Council can’t direct to *how* the $70K will be spend; they can vote to move money not direct it to hiring of security guard.
  45. MacKinnon says that library budget must be cut by $70K as well. Clerk O’Brien says that it’s a one-time transfer, but the expansions have not been tabled yet, so that motion can come later. Amendment passes 13-0.
  46. Nothing further about board expansions. Main motion being amended needs to be revised without the $70K for security guard since that’s being funded out of rate stabilization now.
  47. Vote for local board budget expansion as amended passes 13-0.
  48. Guthrie asks for list of reductions. There are none.
  49. Onto expansions starting with the Career Path Program, an additional $135K.
  50. CAO Thomson says the #1 issue he’s heard from employees is what’s their future, and how can they contribute to the growth the organization. The Career Path Program is a way to do that.
  51. Career Path Program vote failed 8-5 (Allt, Downer, Gordon, Hofland and Wettstein vote in favour).
  52. Downer moves the Diversity & Inclusion Training portion of next expansion, not Corporate Recognitio ($40K). Vote fails 7-6 with Allt, Downer, Gordon, Hofland, Piper and Wettstein voting for.
  53. Next: $9,050 for Council Training. Resubmitting funds that were cut last year. Gordon says council needs all the help they can get to graduate from daycare centre to kindergarten.
  54. Guthrei says he doesn’t know how well that sits with him. Gordon withdraws the remark, and the vote proceeds. Passes 12-1 with Bell against.
  55. Learning and Development Coordinator gets no support from council. Moving on.
  56. WSIB Claims & Disability Coordinator at $103K. Fails 6-7 with Allt, Downer, Gibson, Hofland, Piper and Wettstein for.
  57. Manager of Financial Strategy motion fails 6-7
  58. No one moves Senior Purchasing Agent expansion, moving on to Affordable Housing Financial Incentive Program for nearly $323K
  59. Hofland reads from National Housing Strategy memo from AMO. 100K new units are coming, and the city has to be “shovel ready” with projects when funding becomes available.
  60. Salisbury asks why Affordable Housing Financial Incentive Program is a contract position? Clack says they’re uncertain about the workload, and are unsure if a full FTE is required. It’s about flexibility.
  61. Wettstein not voting because there’s too many unanswered questions. Doesn’t think this is the year and answers need to be gotten from upper levels of government.
  62. MacKinnon says it would be great if people found a place to live. Notes that affordable housing is for the average part of the scale, and doesn’t apply to social housing.
  63. MacKinnon also notes with secondary market, Guelph is meeting targets well, but the issue is primary, and that will depend on inclusionary zones, which will be a local decision. Voting no for Affordable Housing Financial Incentive Program tho.
  64. Vote on Affordable Housing Financial Incentive Program fails 5-8.
  65. Next: $100K for Business Service Reviews. A one-year request because this is still in the pilot stage. Guthrie asks if it would be out of line since it’s not in the base budget moving forward.
  66. Thomson says it is possible. It would be timely to come back next year to talk about how the process went, and plan moving forward.
  67. Hofland asks if $100K is earmarked for transit review. Stewart confirms that it is. Hofland asks if that means the transit review doesn’t get done then? Stewart says yes.
  68. Bell makes motion following Mayor’s lead that $100K come from rate stabilization reserve. Gibson seconds.
  69. Wettstein says this is tricky. The idea was to make the service review part of “everyday thinking”, and with an eye to making it permanent part of the budget. Leaving wrong message to public and next council.
  70. Still nine expansion items left for debate and vote after this one.
  71. Thomson says that staff have learned about lot about service reviews this year, including the need to have specific, independent expertise on certain matters.
  72. MacKinnon would like to see framework come out of the pilot, and says next council will make it a reality going forward. Will support the amendment, but will support the original motion too.
  73. Guthrie says it’s laughable that he doesn’t think service reviews are important. His suggestion is merely this is the continuation of the pilot, and that there will be lessons learned in terms of ongoing expenses.
  74. Amendment to take $100K from rate stabilization passes 11-2 (Allt, Piper against), amended motion passes 12-1 (Allt against).
  75. Next: $142K for Internal Auditor. Wettstein says that council has left this position “a little undermanned” for the last few years.
  76. Internal Auditor passes 8-5 (Bell, Billings, Gibson, Guthrie and Salisbury against).
  77. Now, we’re on to nearly $525 K for Multi-Residential Waste Collection. Billings asks why the purchase of the truck wasn’t in capital, and can it be in capital?
  78. Treasurer Baker says the truck could be approved in capital, but she wanted the whole thing in one package so that the purchase of the truck wouldn’t approved and the expansion of service would not.
  79. Billings/Piper move that the the purchase of the truck (about $278K) be funded from the City building capital reserve fund, and the balance covered under Multi-Residential Waste Collection.
  80. Bell wants it noted that for condo owners, their garbage is only going to be collected if they separate properly. Gibson thanks people for their long years of lobbying efforts. It’s finally paying off!
  81. Current balance of city building reserve after purchase of truck would be about $280K.
  82. Guthrie formally acknowledges Ted Pritchard at the Fair Tax Campaign. This has come from church basement’s to council chambers, and Guthrie is glad its finally time. Motion passes 13-0!
  83. There’s applause for the passing of the motion. Guthrie allows it.
  84. Paramedics – Additional Guelph Shift the next expansion. Passes 13-0.
  85. Now, $84.9K for Paramedics Field Superintendent. Vote fails 6-7.
  86. Next item is nearly $47 K for Parks Seasonal Staff Sportsfields and Trails expanding the work period from 24 to 26 week because of longer season. Passes 7-6.
  87. Now additional $49.5 K for Security Guards. Downer would like to see supported in order to free up bylaw, adding that Ward 5 makes a lot of calls to bylaw.
  88. Salisbury asks for expansion between crossover with library security and city hall security. Clack says she’s had preliminary discussions, but the needs are very different.
  89. Again, the reason City gets two security guards for $49 K is because the City already contracts out security on a part-time basis, which is factored into budget. $49K is extra funding to make it permanent FTEs.
  90. Guthrie wonders if the security guards are going to trained on how to do more than say, “Get out!” i.e. help people with mental health issues.
  91. Clack says yes, security officers will be trained on how to deal with all situations, how to be proactive and how to direct people to other resources.
  92. Security guards approved in 7-6 vote (Bell, Billings, Gibson, Guthrie, MacKinnon and Salisbury against.)
  93. Second to last expansion: Waste Collection Operator for $78.8 K passes 9-4
  94. No support for expanded Yard Waste Collection.
  95. Now up to 2.45 per cent. “Not too shabby”, says Guthrie.
  96. Gibson suggests a break. So Guthrie calls a half-hour pause till 5:45. Next, back to the main motion and the approval of the local board budget and the infrastructure levy.
  97. Again, rate increase currently sits at 2.45. Guthrie asks for comments before final vote on this potion.
  98. Salisbury asks why not debate all portions before the vote. Decision on infrastructure levy may dictate final vote on budget. Guthrie says he has no answer, this is the process they all agreed on.
  99. Van Hellemond says this is what people want to see from the council process: respect and collaboration between members to get to a compromise.
  100. Guthrie agrees, says he’s satisfied where things have landed. Hopes for a unanimous vote.
  101. Salisbury asks if its appropriate to table the vote until after the other debate has been had. To alleviate his own anxiety.
  102. Clerk notes there’s a couple of challenges: a motion on the floor, several amendments passed already to that motion, and the chair has already said he’s not in favour, and it’s his call.
  103. Salisbury holding firm, but Guthrie says he considers Guelph’s infrastructure issues separate. Guthrie says he’s disappointed that this has been “sprung” on him and council, wanted a team approach.
  104. Salisbury asks what’s the harm in moving the vote till the end? If the answer is nothing, then what’s the big deal?
  105. Downer says this agenda has been out for a few weeks, and it seems disrespectful to the process. This is also how they did it last year.
  106. Guthrie says he’s prepared to call the vote, and if Salisbury votes the way he does then he’s going to have to explain that. Wettstein adds he’s prepared to go either way, but shares Salisbury’s concerns.
  107. The mayor says they either trust each other, or they have “artificial harmony.” Adds, “Let’s lean, for once, to the side of trust.”
  108. Guthrie says he’s sure nothing “weird” is going to happen during the infrastructure debate.
  109. Bell says that passing the capital budget, then operating, and then more capital on top is not the way this should be done. Suggests that *moving forward* those issues with process should be resolved.
  110. It should be noted that Guthrie was asking comments on the motion. “We’re getting into budget debrief stuff, which is valid,” says Guthrie a little frustrated.
  111. Piper says that concerns seem to be from the idea that collaboration will break down during the infrastructure debate.
  112. Salisbury said that he takes issues with Downers comments, that if he didn’t catch the mayor’s last email on the subject, that’s not indicative of how he does his job as a councillor.
  113. Downer doesn’t know what to say, either he read the email or not, but this was the known process and Salisbury made no mention of issues at the beginning of meeting when agenda was set.
  114. Allt says that DCAO Lee’s that this budget is in the “best interest of Guelph” should be taken to heart.
  115. Hofland says she’s heard a lot of powerful words tonight, thinks this evening she made a lot of *compromise*, vote for the budget, and *trust* the team process.
  116. Gibson says he had a number in mind when he came in, but in the spirit of compromise he thinks council has done a pretty good job. Council has shown restraint in how fast they’re growing.
  117. Guthrie pleads with council for unanimous vote.
  118. Salisbury says he wants his abstention noted as a no vote. Guthrie says he didn’t know councillors were elected to abstain.
  119. The vote is 12-1 in favour of the operating budget. Guthrie says, “It was unanimous among the councillors that voted.”
  120. Next, the 2018 Downtown Guelph Business Association budget, a separate vote with MacKinnon absent due to conflict. Passes 12-0.
  121. Gibson noted that he abstained on this last year, looking at needs though, he says that next year can look at directing more funds through infrastructure out of projected surpluses. Moves amendment to make the increase 0.5%, seconded by Billings.
  122. Gibson says he’d like to vote for infrastructure, show his support, but not comfortable with the full 1%.
  123. Responding to Hofland Q, Gibson says he appreciates staff and council showing restraint on operating, and wants to show support for infrastructure. Hofland says there’s still three months left in the year from last report, so anything can happen.
  124. Guthrie says he doesn’t want Hofland to get off on a tangent, but the motion is purely about 0.5%
  125. Hofland says that residents need predictability of knowing the consistency of the levy.
  126. Wettstein says he’s not going to vote for any increase over 1%, but will vote for anything 1% or under. Also thinks it might violate the municipal act to talk about a surplus that doesn’t exist yet.
  127. Wettstein says they’re not taking cuts from the right place, if this this passes, he’ll vote in favour of re-opening the operating budget and uses rate stabilization to lower the rate increase there.
  128. Allt says if they approve an increase of 0.5% this year, then, according to his calculation, the next council will have to approve a 1.65% increase to play catch-up. It smells like politics.
  129. Guthrie says this is getting “off the rails.” The election talk and talk of surprise says it really bothers him. Last year, staff recommended 0.5% and council wanted to do 1% and it was “cool”. Now the reverse is uncool?!?!
  130. “These are just motions!” says Guthrie. “There’s no reason to be accusatory of one and other.”
  131. Bell says he was prepared to vote for the one per cent levy, but there is a red line when it comes to the overall increase. And if they can’t “tighten the purse strings” on operating, it’s got to come out of the levy.
  132. Gordon says he thinks council did a good job on “tightening the purse strings”, the people he talked to are asking for value for money, and looking for enhancing the community. He’s confused about the mixed messaging.
  133. Gibson says he was attempting to tell people where he was willing to go, but some people didn’t vote for the levy last year, and he gets to speak his mind about it, and on behalf of the people he’s representing.
  134. Downer said she was open to 0.5 when talking about intentions in the last meeting. Notes that there was no cutting in the operating budget, council just didn’t vote for stuff.
  135. MacKinnon says anything other than 1 % is a terrible idea. There’s a plan in the works, it’s a good plan, but the problem is huge and changing things in Year 2 shows that council doesn’t have a spine.
  136. Guthrie says “Let’s call the vote, everybody,” but there’s some disagreement on that point.
  137. Billings says she supported the 0.5% last year, but not the 1. Thinks that 1% is too much/too fast. She has no issue with the plan, but emphasizes that this is *another* 1%.
  138. Billing says don’t talk about the percentage point, you have to talk about the impact. People cannot afford large increases, and she’s an example of that. Billings noted that she voted against every increase save for the paramedics.
  139. So tl;dr Billings offers an amendment to borrow 0.5% from rate stabilization to bring it up to 1% (1 time only).
  140. Billings notes that about $800K from the budget increases came from provincial changes, so the City’s getting crunched. Ideally she would have like to have seen a 2 or 2.1% rate increase.
  141. Bell says this is a clear case of having our cake and eating it too. Not sure he meant that as a positive or a negative.
  142. Impact on the rate stabilization reserve is about $4 million.
  143. MacKinnon says he’ll support the motion as a “method of compromise”.
  144. MacKinnon adds this is made possible by four years of good fiscal management that’s resulted in surpluses and has made this possible.
  145. Guthrie keeps trying to call the vote, and is met by groans.
  146. Allt concerned that they’re taking from one pocket to pay for the other, and this council has talked a lot about creating more room in the reserve funds, but this seems to not be happening. He’s a no.
  147. Hofland says this is the messiest budget she’s been a part of, I think she’s forgot about the double-header, two-night event in 2015.
  148. Hofland says she feels like there’s been some skulduggery, and that this process goes against the “no surprises” promise at the outset of the process. She’s also a no vote.
  149. Wettstein says that council is playing a game that’s unfair to their successors putting so much off till next year. The lesson is never leave the levy to the last item.
  150. Salisbury asks when council is allowed to add money to the rate stabilization reserve. Baker says it’s at the will of council to despot and withdraw money form those reserves.
  151. Gordon says he’s having a sense of deja vu from the way council found money for the GNSC. If council thinks they’re saving money by taking from reserves designed for emergencies and unexpected developments, they might be surprised.
  152. Downer asks if its policy for staff to recommend that surpluses end up in stabilization reserve? Baker says her staff looks at all the reserves and makes the best recommendation.
  153. Downer then notes that this is the first time in this term that council has used rate stabilization, and points out how many times it was used last term.
  154. Billings amendment passes 7-6 (Allt, Gordon, Hofland, Piper, Salisbury, and Wettstein against)
  155. Gibson amendment passes 7-6 (Allt, Gordon, Hofland, Piper, Salisbury, and Wettstein against)
  156. Main motion passes 8-5 (Allt, Gordon, Hofland, Salisbury, and Wettstein against)
  157. Budget Impacts per Ontario Regulations 284/09 and Budget Public Sector Accounting Standards Reconciliation passes unanimously.
  158. 2018 Local Boards and Shared Services Budgets pass unanimously.
  159. Bylaws as amended pass 12-1 (Salisbury against).
  160. Guthrie thanks staff for their months of work. Notes that we started at 2 and ended at 7 with half-hour break so “not bad.” Notes this is this council’s last budget, and he’s satisfied with where council landed.
  161. Meeting adjourned. There’s only 3 council meetings left this year.

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