Pace and capacity, COVID-19, legislation changes, modernizing service delivery, and climate change at centre of City’s budget talks
Guelph, Ont., November 4, 2021 – On November 16, the City of Guelph is presenting the 2022 and 2023 Budget, it’s first multi-year budget—aligning the resources needed for the remaining years of the Strategic Plan: Guelph. Future Ready and taking one more step in enhancing the City’s financial management policies and practices.
“Delivering a two-year operating and capital budget moves the City toward a four-year budget as part of our new multi-year budget planning process. It also builds on the success of our award-winning 2021 one city, one budget,” says Trevor Lee, deputy CAO, Corporate Services.
“A multi-year budget gives Council a long-range view to better manage budget pressures over four years so that our community doesn’t have to deal with spikes in costs,” explains Tara Baker, treasurer and Finance general manager. “We have the financial means with our strong reserve position to manage unexpected changes within a given year, to balance affordability and progress as necessary.”
In developing the 2022 and 2023 Budget, overriding themes and strategies have emerged that highlight impacts to the budget. They include:
- Pace and capacity: Guelph is mandated to grow to 203,000 people by 2051, and with that comes an increase in service delivery and infrastructure needs. The City is using its long-term financial planning as a foundation to inform data-driven decisions, prioritize investment aligned with capacity to deliver, and maintain an affordable pace of service delivery. Council’s approval of budget will set the pace to ensure the City has the resource capacity to deliver on its investments.
- COVID-19: Pandemic recovery continues to create future uncertainty with changing business needs, supply chain challenges, inflationary concerns, and reliance on Provincial funding. The City’s approach to minimize costs, and adjust service levels, has enabled the organization to mitigate permanent budget impacts at this time, and work within the Safe Restart envelope of relief funding.
- Changing legislation: The City’s ability to meet legislated changes such as Bill 177 (Court Services) and Bill 108 (Planning Services) hinges on the staff resources included in the budget. Although legislation changes related to the Conservation Authorities Act (e.g., Grand River Conservation Authority) and Waste Free Ontario Act impacting the recycling business aren’t reflected in these budgets, they will have considerable budget impacts in 2024 and beyond. The City also continues to monitor the health sector for changes to long-term care, health units, and paramedicine programs that may start to emerge post-pandemic.
- Modernizing and transforming service delivery: Making sure its workforce is future-ready, the City is investing in digital transformation to become the modern and customer-centric City the community expects. A new Modernization and Efficiency Financial Strategy is proposed to provide both the people and fiscal capacity to implement the Service Rationalization Review recommendations in combination with digital modernization and process optimization. The budget reflects the financial investment of those changes.
- Energy and climate change: The City is applying a climate lens to capital lifecycle replacements, new construction, and energy optimization initiatives that moves the City closer to its 100RE goal. There are several places where 100RE investments appear in the budget, as both tax-supported and rate funded projects that reduce corporate energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Capital funds are also used to leverage Provincial and Federal energy grants. One major driver of 100RE investment is transit fleet electrification for current replacement and future expansion buses.
“We’re asking tough and perhaps uncomfortable questions and being honest with what we can accomplish. As discussed with Council at the October 18 budget workshop, there are affordability levers available to Council and at the end of the day, they’ll have to make some difficult decisions and consider which projects and initiatives get the go ahead now, and those that may have to wait,” says Lee.
Budget by the numbers
Like last year, staff is presenting the non-tax operating, tax-supported operating, capital, and local boards and shared services budgets as one single budget, regardless of the funding source or which City department manages the service.
“The budget we’re proposing outlines the resources needed to deliver the City’s programs, services, and initiatives to the community—today and into the future. It also sets the pace of how quickly we can provide services, complete strategic priorities and demonstrate success on the Council-approved performance metrics,” says Baker.
Staff is asking Council to deliberate and approve the proposed 2022 and 2023 operating budget at a gross expenditure of $48.1 million and $50.1 million respectively: investment-focused on maintaining service delivery to the current and growing population. Of this, $5.6 million or a 2.1 per cent levy increase is for City departments in 2022, and in 2023 the amount is $7.9 million or a 2.85 per cent levy increase.
The proposed 2022 budget increase for the local boards and shared services (LBSS) partners is $4.1 million or a 1.53 per cent levy increase, and in 2023 it is $5.1 million or 1.84 per cent levy increase. LBSS partners include the Elliott Community, Guelph Public Library, Guelph Police Service, Grand River Conservation Authority, Wellington County Social Services, and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health.
With this budget, Council will also decide whether to include the $750,000 levy for Guelph General Hospital for the second of the six year commitment, as approved on December 3, 2019 resulting in a net levy increase of 0.29 per cent.
In total, this means $27.7 million or 3.93 per cent levy increase over 2021 is needed in property tax and payment-in-lieu of taxes, and in 2023, $29.3 million or 4.69 per cent levy increase over 2022. A residential property assessed at $389,500 is estimated to cost $4,003.21 in property taxes in 2022 based on the proposed budget. This is an increase of $149.51 over 2021.
The capital budget totals for 2022 and 2023 are $141.4 million and $161.9 million respectively, and primarily focuses on replacing aging infrastructure and building new assets to support a growing city. The 2024 to 2031 capital forecast is $1.7 billion with an operating budget impact of $8.4 million to be phased in over multiple years. The capital budget pays for projects such as the fibre optic cable network for future data needs, and additional initiatives for Council consideration such as electrifying Guelph Transit buses, and planting 10,000 trees.
The two-year budget also includes proposed changes to user fees and rates for water, wastewater and stormwater. Collectively, these rate changes result in a 2.61 per cent increase in 2022 and a 2.86 per cent increase in 2023 for the average home in Guelph.
Dates to remember
November 16 is the 2022 and 2023 Budget presentation to Council and the public, November 18 is public delegations, November 23 is the citywide town hall event, and December 2 is set for Council deliberation and approval of the two-year operating and capital budget and to receive the 2024 to 2025 operating and 2024 to 2031 capital forecasts.
Public delegation night
Residents can address Council about the budget through a written submission or by phone at the November 18 Council budget meeting. Please register as a delegate, or make a submission by 10 a.m. on November 12 using the online delegate request form, contacting the City Clerk’s office at 519-837-5603 or emailing [email protected].
Budget town hall
The City is hosting a 90-minute virtual town hall event on November 23, starting at 7 p.m. Watch the event at Vimeo (https://bit.ly/3w7ysgI), guelph.ca/live or Facebook (@cityofguelph) as City staff unpack what was presented to Council on November 16. Get your budget questions answered in real time by submitting them through Vimeo or Facebook.
Read the 2022 and 2023 City Budget staff report.
Budget materials are available at guelph.ca/budget. A few changes this year include:
- one dashboard with operating and capital budget
- searchable capital projects and budget requests
- rates, fees, and charges guide dashboard
- budget strategy summaries—the stories behind the numbers
As always, the public can read questions posted by Council and staff’s answers on the online budget board.
Follow the City’s budget updates at guelph.ca/budget, on Twitter (@cityofguelph, #GuelphBudget) and on Facebook (@cityofguelph). Residents wanting to know more about the budget can email [email protected].
Watch all budget Council meetings (presentation, delegation and deliberation nights) live at guelph.ca/live.
Treasurer and General Manager, Finance
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2084