Growth, digital services and COVID-19 at the centre of the City’s 2021 budget talks

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Guelph, Ont., November 5, 2020 — There’s lots to talk about as City Council prepares to consider the proposed 2021 budget. With a four-year budget perspective, Council will only approve the 2021 budget this year, but will see the financial impacts of service decisions and plans beyond one year.

“We are bringing several new elements with this year’s budget,” said Trevor Lee, deputy CAO, Corporate Services. “Presenting the operating portion of the budget with a four year view gives Council an opportunity to manage how and when they achieve the goals in Guelph’s Strategic Plan.”

The pace at which the City implements strategic priorities, and the resources required to meet the goals, will shape the projected tax levies and user rates from 2022 to 2024. The figures presented in these future budget years will guide Council as they review and approve the budgets over the next few years.

Staff will be asking Council to deliberate on a 2021 proposed operating budget with a gross expenditure of $463,387,040, of which property taxes, and payment-in-lieu of taxes, will need to cover $267,774,464—equalling a 3.52 per cent increase over last year.

These figures reflect the funding needed to maintain current levels of service for both the City and its local boards and shared service partners. The proposed budget increase for the local board and shared services totals $3,077,043 or 1.20 per cent of the increased levy. These community partners include Guelph Public Library, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, Social Services (County of Wellington), Downtown Guelph Business Association, Guelph Police Service, and the Elliott (long-term care).

This proposed budget also includes new budget requests from the City to support maintaining services in a growing community, strategic priority implementation, and COVID-19 community response totaling $1,359,400, and six new positions.

The capital portion of this budget comes in at the gross expenditure amount of $263,170,406, which would go towards funding Council-approved projects such as the South End Community Centre and Baker District redevelopment. It also includes new digital technology and linear road and underground pipe reconstruction. With this capital investment comes an operating budget impact of $9,455,897, to be phased in over multiple years.

The financial implications of responding to COVID-19 is a theme that features prominently in the proposed 2021 budget. Other themes include:

  • Continuing with long-term financial planning to inform data-driven decisions and maintain affordability.
  • Creating a digital transformation to become the modern and customer-centric City the community expects.
  • Maintaining Guelph’s infrastructure assets to ensure continuity of service, and the health and safety of the community.
  • Managing our financial plans and being deliberate in matching growth costs and revenues.

The 2021 budget also presents the proposed annual changes to user fees and rates for water, wastewater and stormwater. This year, a 2.8 per cent increase to water, a one per cent increase to wastewater, and a stormwater base charge change of $6.40 per month are proposed. Collectively these rate changes result in a 2.0 per cent increase for the average home in Guelph.

Council and Guelph residents will get a clearer picture of how the budget and the Strategic Plan priorities align as staff makes its presentation on November 17. This year, all initiatives, programs and services roll up under one of the five priorities.

“In past years, we presented the budget by capital, operating, non-tax operating and local boards and shared services,” said Tara Baker, treasurer and general manager of Finance. “This year, we’re presenting one budget that aligns programs and services to Guelph’s Strategic Plan, which reflects Council’s direction to prioritize projects and services that move the community and corporation forward.”

The public will have an opportunity to delegate on the budget on November 25. Council is scheduled to approve the budget on December 1.

For the first time, all budget documents are available online at the same time at guelph.ca/budget. The revised website hosts all budget information including data directly from the City’s financial software; budget strategy summaries that delve into the City’s financial strategies; the rates, fees and charges guide; and the budget board where citizens can read questions posted by Council and staff’s answers. A new podcast series explores the impacts of themes like growth, infrastructure renewal, COVID-19, and modernizing customer service on the City’s budget.

Community input

Citizens can address Council about the budget through a written submission or by phone at the November 25 Council budget meeting. Please register as a delegate, or make a submission by 10 a.m., November 20. Please register online to speak at a Council meeting, or contact the City Clerk’s office at 519-837-5603 or email [email protected].

Review the proposed budget documents  and follow the City’s budget updates on Twitter (@cityofguelph, #GuelphBudget) and on Facebook (@cityofguelph). Do you want to know more about the budget? Email us at [email protected].

Watch all budget Council meetings (presentation, delegation and deliberation nights) live at guelph.ca/live.

All budget documents and related information are now available on guelph.ca/budget. Online budget documents comply with the Province’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Accessible formats available by calling 519-822-1260, extension 2325 or TTY 519-826-9771.

Media contact

Tara Baker
Treasurer and General Manager, Finance
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2084
[email protected]