This month’s Committee meeting will try and not reach an epic length time while dealing with issues held over from May, along with financial updates, a new customer service strategy, a service review update, and a motion to make Guelph officially bee friendly.
CLOSED MEETING: Dolime Quarry – Potential Settlement Pathway Financing Framework; Agreement of Purchase and Sale Negotiations for 200 Beverley Street.
PRESENTATION: Staff recognition for completion of Masters of Public Administration – Ronald Maeresera, Senior Corporate Analyst of Financial Planning.
CAO-2018.11 Payroll Process Audit Report – Fun fact: the City has eight pay groups made up of union and non-union employees. An internal audit was recently conducted to make sure that the pay process for all eight groups is as efficient and it possibly can be. Now this isn’t some Phoenix pay system situation, City of Guelph employees are all getting paid what they’re owed and on time. However, some improvements were identified, and management has agreed to all the recommendations.
CS-2018.20 2017 Unconsolidated Financial Statements and Financial Highlights – Although it’s not required by the Municipal Act, this report to council offers a summary of the City’s assets and liabilities, as well as the accumulated surplus, which includes reserves and reserve funds. This is important because it can inform the City’s credit rating, and that speaks to the overall financial health of Guelph to outside investors. The short form of the report is that the City is maintaining a one-to-one relationship of dollars in reserve and reserve funds even though the total cash and investment holdings have decreased year-over-year, while maintaining a low tax receivable position as a percentage of total taxes levied as compared to other southwestern Ontario municipalities, and paying down $24.4 million in debt. At the same time though, staff is warning that future employee benefits will continue to escalate and that the City needs to develop long-term strategies to deal with them.
CS-2018.21 2017 Consolidated Financial Statements and External Audit Findings Report – KPMG once again looked at the books for the various boards and agencies of which the City of Guelph is a stakeholder. In a startling reversal, the Elliott is now showing a surplus of $753,000 versus a deficit of $344,000 in 2016, which is, of course, due to the Elliott’s new accounting practice of amortizing (spreading out capital expenses over its useful lifetime) its capital assets. The Downtown Guelph Business association though still can’t shake its own deficit, which was $16,000 due to assessment write-offs. The Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, meanwhile, approved a reserve distribution of $859,000 back to the City of Guelph for debt funding that went to the construction of two new capital facilities, and that money is now freed up for new debt-funded capital projects. The Guelph Junction Railway made a net income of $957,000 last year thanks to increase activity on the lines, and Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. made $1.1 million last year.
CS-2018.19 2018 First Quarter Operating Variance Report – Although there’s “limited data,” staff are of the opinion that the City is on track to be spending within the approved Tax and Non-tax Supported Budgets one quarter of the way through the year. Having said that, there are still some areas of concern. Transit is a big one, an unfavourable variance is a possibility because of lower than expected revenue and high overtime costs due to vacancies. The harsh winter weather, and managing the clean-up, might also result in a negative variance, but there is a reserve fund dedicated to covering weather related budget overruns. Environmental Services is also concerning, as there’s a risk of negative variance due to increased haulage costs, and decreased commodity prices.
CS-2018.03 Investment Standards and Policy Change – There have been changes to the Municipal Act and Ontario Regulation 437/97, which could have an effect on the current City of Guelph Investment Policy. The change primarily has to do with the Prudent Investor Regulation-Section 418, which authorizes all Ontario municipalities, save for Toronto, to opt into a prudent investor regime that will allow them to invest in a wider array of securities and investments than was allowed under the previous framework, so long as those municipalities meet a set of certain criteria. It’s an interesting opportunity, but City staff is recommending that Guelph not pursue Prudent Investor Status, as the City’s Investment Policy has a prudent standard of care clause, and because Guelph has limited investment resources.
CAO-2018.17 Service Simplified: A Customer Service Strategy – It’s not a well kept secret that there are some customer service issues at City Hall, and “Service Simplified” is aiming to make things easier when citizens and businesses need to work with City services. The pressures include 45 public phone lines, 42,000 miscommunications, nine in-person service locations, and the resulting mishmash of customer service experiences among all those access the City of Guelph. To fix these problems, staff want to find ways to use technology better, modernize customer service channels, and steamline customer service. Specifically, these solutions will include, but not be limited to, more customer service training for staff, offering more self-access online, creating a central call centre, making social media a more immediate and responsive customer service channel, and establishing customer service standards and guidelines. This all will add $150,000 to the 2019 budget.
PS-2018.24 Fixed Gear Brewing Company: Manufacturer’s Limited Liquor Sales Licence Application – The Fixed Gear Brewing Company on Alma St. is currently applying to be licensed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) for both an On-Site Brewery Retail Store Authorization and a Manufacturer’s Limited Liquor Sales Licence. To get it, city council has to endorse the application and pass a resolution supporting Fixed Gear getting such a license. Staff is recommending that council so endorse.
PS-2018.25 Paramedic Services Response Time Performance Plan for 2019 – The Response Time Performance Plan is a way to measure how quickly Guelph ambulances respond to calls as broken down by the types of calls received, and it also plans for how to improve those call times. Generally, the response times have been improving with expanded hours at various facilities in Wellington County, but call volumes have also been going up. There was an 11 per cent increase in 2017 over 2016. On the bright side, Paramedic Services is beating the RTPP set by council in 2016 in five out of six areas. In the sixth area, Sudden Cardiac Arrest, the compliance rate is off by 2.8 per cent; 62.2 per cent versus the council mandate 65 per cent. Overall, the targets for 2019 will remain the same as staff can’t assure that they have the resources right now to exceed those targets.
PS-2018.26 Boulevard Maintenance Service Review – The least controversial of the three pilot service review has returned, and the fact of the matter is that Boulevard Maintenance in the City of Guelph is in-line with competitor municipalities, while getting a 73 per cent satisfaction rating for the service. No changes to service are being suggested now, and City staff are not recommending that council spend the extra $137,169 per year on servicing all 143 residential cul-de-sacs in Guelph. However, a pilot looking at the maintenance of hardscaped medians twice a year will be brought forward to council in an expansion package during the 2019 budget process.
PS-2018.27 Guelph Transit Special Event Fare Program Update – The one-year pilot project of charging $1 bus rides to events at the Sleeman Centre and the River Run Centre seems to have been a success. Exact numbers are unavailable, at least not until next year when the new fair boxes are installed, but it was noted that most riders were using the special events fare to get to Guelph Storm and Guelph Hurricane games at the Sleeman Centre. (It was noted though that a lot of the River Run’s events take place Sunday night when no bus service is available at all.) Guelph Transit is recommending that the pilot project become a permanent project.
CS-2018.47 Accountability and Transparency Policy Update* – This is another one of those policy updates that isn’t altering the policy too much. This one has some minor grammatical changes, some new and updated definitions of terms, and updates to provisions in order to reflect current practices. Committee will discuss an proposed amendment from Mayor Cam Guthrie to add a proviso for council to disclose expenses and gifts of $30 or more on a monthly basis, and for executive managers to disclose expenses on a quarterly basis. (*This item was held over from last month’s Committee meeting.)
CS-2018-39 Committee of the Whole One-Year Review** – You might remember last year around this time when council accidentally voted to discontinue the committee of the whole structure and go back to standing committee, but after a vote of reconsideration council decided to stay the course and wait for a one-year review. One year later, the clerk’s office is going to recommend that council keep the committee of the whole structure. The most persuasive argument is timing, in 2015 the combined time spent in committee and council was nearly 90 hours, where as in 2017 it was closer to 60. Also, the new structure is credited for fewer meetings going past 11 pm, four in 2015 versus one in 2017. However, if council decides to return to standing committee, that process will not happen quickly because of the numerous arrangements that have to be made, and the fact that the clerk’s office is presently managing an election. The earliest the switch could occur is sometime at the beginning of the next council term. (**This item was held over from last month’s Committee meeting.)
IDE-2018.88 Municipal Funding Agreement, Ontario Main Street Revitalization Initiative – This initiative is $26 million in funding from the provincial government to undertake projects that will support and benefit small businesses. Guelph’s cut of that is $146,180.44, and the project chosen by Business, Development and Enterprise is new way-signing. Much of the signage downtown is dated, and a city-wide wayfinding strategy is part of the Urban Design Master Plan, but doesn’t presently have a budget of its own. Wayfinding also helps to promote tourism in the city, and is “about creating a sense of comfort, safety and security for those visiting Guelph.” The program will be co-ordinated through the Downtown Advisory Committee.
IDE-2018.76 Bee City Designation for Guelph – Yes, this report is recommending that Guelph become a Bee City. What does that mean? Bee City Canada is a federally registered charity who’s mission is to inspire cities, towns, First Nations, schools, businesses and other organizations to take action to protect pollinators by improving pollinator habitat, educating the community about the importance of pollinators, and celebrating pollinators. Guelph’s becoming a Bee City will make us one in a chorus of governments that are promoting the importance of bees and other pollinating insects in creating a thriving biosphere. The City will be hosting an Open House during International Pollinator Week in the third week of June, and building a “bee hotel” on the green roof of City Hall for bees to nest and overwinter.