City Council Preview – What’s on the Agenda for the February 7 Meeting?

After a big build up the last month, the City of Guelph has finally released the 2019 Tax Supported Operating Budget. So how will it affect the bottom line of the city, and the bottom line for local property owners?

CS-2019-01 2019 Tax Supported Operating Budget  – The proposed Tax Supported Operating Budget for 2019 is $243.4 million, which represents a 3.93 per cent increase over last year. In terms of the year-to-year trends, the operating budget of the City of Guelph has increased by $9 million every year since 2015, so the 2019 budget is keeping up that tradition.

So how did we get to 3.93 per cent? You start with a base budget increase of 1.04 per cent, add 1.65 per cent including the one per cent Dedicated Infrastructure Levy, add another 0.67 per cent for increases to Local Boards and Shared Services, and 0.96 per cent for decisions made by council over the course of the year. You then take away 1.58 per cent for expected growth in assessment revenue, but add another 1.22 per cent for requested expansion items.

If you’ve done your math right, then you know that this comes to 3.96 per cent, but another 0.03 per cent gets shaved off due to recently approved changes to Non-Union and Management Employees (NUME) compensation. Prior to calculating the final increase to the Tax Supported Operating Budget, staff recommended spending $804,865 from reserves on one-time initiatives or budget pressures.

The breakdown by department sees just over two-thirds of the budget go to the management of municipal affairs, with just over 17 per cent going to the police as the next highest line item. Shared services get 9.1 per cent, the library gets 3.9 per cent, Public Health gets 1.6 per cent, and the Elliott gets 0.6 per cent.

Now let’s go line-by-line, as it were:

Office of the Mayor and City Council – This section sees an increase of $128,230 over the 2018 budget, bringing this amount to $1,107,735 for 2019. The main driver here is the changes to council remuneration, but there’s also some software improvements and ongoing training for the new council. There are also potential expansions for additional council training, and the hiring of an administrative assistant for council for an additional cost of $68,550.

Office of the CAO – This budget comes in at $60,687 less than 2018 for a $3,456,878 budget for 2019. There were internal recoveries from the internal audit and the reallocation of Legal, Realty and Court Services, but with projects like the Community Plan, the reorganization of GMHI, future planning for business service reviews, and the final cycle of the Smart Cities Challenges, the workload at the CAO’s office is heavier than usual.

Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Services (IDE) – This section is asking for a 5.4 per cent increase for 2019, bringing the budget up to $25,732,270. About $60,000 of this is credited to operating impacts from capital spent in the 2018 budget, and Solid Waste continues to weigh things down with increased haulage costs, and revenue loss from the sale of carbon credits and recyclable materials. In terms of expansion items, two full-time equivalent (FTE) positions are being recommended for a Planning Technician, and for a Traffic Safety Analyst. This would add $213,230 to the IDE budget.

Public Services – For this expansive file, there’s only a 1.7 per cent increase proposed for 2019, for a budget of $86,855,591 for this year. Increased fuel and maintenance costs for vehicles is a consideration, as is a $210,000 operating impact from 2018 capital costs. There’s also a decrease in ad revenue and corporate sponsorship that has an effect on the bottom line. Working in the budget’s favour though is an increase in the land ambulance grant revenue from the Ministry of Health, and increased revenue from the universal bus pass.

Expansions include nine FTEs including eight for Paramedic Resources, and a Natural Area Stewardship Technologist. There’s also additional fleet operating costs and nearly $500,000 in costs coming from proposed changes in the Transit Service Review. All the expansion items will add $1,262,100 to the budget.

Corporate Services – This area will see a 3.2 per cent increase from the 2018 budget, meanng $14,491,580 will be spent on Corporate Services for 2019. The additional costs from from increases to compensation, reallocation of Legal, Realty and Court Services from the CAO budget, increased software costs, and operating impacts from the 2018 capital budget. The increase might double with an additional $484,575 in expansions being requested including two FTEs for a Manager of Capital Strategy and Long-term Planning, and a Senior Procurement Agent for Strategic Sourcing. There’s also a request for a new service called Career Path Program, Diversity and Inclusion.

General and Capital Financing – There’s a 14 per cent change from 2018 to 2019, bringing this line to $31,463,951. There’s increased income from better marketing rates, as well as increased dividend revenue from the Alectra merger and Guelph Junction Railway, and increased transfers to capital reserve and reserve funds. This will also be the third year that the one per cent Infrastructure Levy will be collected by the City, which is part of a 10-year plan.

Delegations will be heard at the February 20 budget meeting of City Council, and the final decision will be made on March 5.

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