City Council Preview – What’s on the Agenda for the April 16 Meeting?

In the City of Guelph’s second ever emergency council meeting of the pandemic era (and last because there will be a name change later), the socially distant city council and senior staff will look at their actions so far, and the next phase of of the City’s technical and fiscal response to COVID-19, which needs to be council approved.

NOTE #1: Delegates will be able to appear at this meeting via telephone, but you do have to register with the clerks office before 11 am on Thursday April 16. You can also submit written delegations and correspondences for agenda items.

NOTE #2: The meeting will be closed to the public, though it will be live-streamed on the City of Guelph’s website here.

PRESENTATION: COVID-19 Updates – There are no specifics as to what exactly will be presented, but Mayor Cam Guthrie and Chief Administrative Officer Scott Stewart will be doing the presenting.

Procedural By-law Update – There were some initial changes to the Procedural Bylaw at the March 23 meeting to allow for emergency meetings, and to allow for council members to appear remotely, but there have been further reviews of the bylaw, and a few more recommended changes. First, there’s the name change from “Emergency Council Meetings” to “Special Council Meetings”, and there’s also now policy to cover the allowance for delegations, and the introduction of deadlines to register delegates. There are some other terminology changes and points of clarification as well.

2020 Property Tax Policy Report – Following up on the passage of the 2020 Budget back in December is how that will translate into your property tax bill. For the average property assessed at $388,362, it means an increase of $140.76 for a total annual levy of $3,766.50. These changes will go into effect when the next property tax installment is due on June 30, 2020.

Temporary Borrowing Policy – Under section 407 of the Municipal Act, a municipality can borrow money to cover increased expenses in times of “unexpected interruptions of normal business.” There are restrictions, of course, and between January and October those borrowings can’t exceed 50 per cent of the estimated revenues during that period, and it’s recommended that based on the City’s present assets and financial picture that any temporary borrowing doesn’t exceed $100 million. (For the record, that’s about 40 per cent of the City’s total $256,192,624 budget.)

Another consideration is the interest to any funds that are borrowed, but with present rock-bottom rates, the interest would come to just over $1 million if the City borrowed just 10 per cent, or $42.5 million, of annual revenue. At the same time, there are some buffers that might help cushion the financial blow. With the Government of Ontario stopping all non-essential construction, the City might save between 25 and 50 per cent on capital costs this year. Also, the Province’s deferral of this quarter’s portion of the education property tax will free up $16 million for the City’s short-term cashflow. Council is being asked to give the Treasurer the power to access short-term borrowing to cover operating expenditures.

Managing the Impacts of COVID-19 – The cost of the fiscal relief measures from the City’s efforts to combat the effects of COVID-19 so far has been $5 million, while the loss of revenue currently sits at $3.9 million. (These figures do not yet include local boards and shared services, which includes the Guelph Police Service, the Guelph Public Library, and a portion of social services.) Exact numbers are hard to come by because circumstances are changing constantly, but the financial department of the City is trying to stay on top of things.

In terms of next measures, City staff is recommending that the cost of transit passes and parking permits and fees continue to be waved until June 30. They are also recommending that fiscal penalties and interest on delayed payments continue to be waived through July on water, wastewater, and stormwater user fees. Business license payments will also be deferred until the end of July, and so will the deferrals of late fines and interest on property taxes. The launch of the Municipal Accommodation Tax, which was supposed to be this fall, has been delayed indefinitely to give local tourism time to recover. Staff is also recommending that there be additional yard waste pick-up in the spring to compensate for the closure of public drop-off.

This report will also go over the dozen staff working tables, which all focus on a different aspect of the crisis response from economic recovery, to community support, to cleaning and first responders.

CLOSED MEETING: Council will go in-camera under Section 239 (2)(b) and (d) of the Municipal Act relating to personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees and labour relations or employee negotiations.

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