Good afternoon Neighbour,
We hope this newsletter finds you well on this snowy day! Today we are sharing updates from yesterday’s 2023 budget confirmation process, and asking for your input on the 2024-2027 Strategic Plan Update.
If you find these newsletters helpful, please share them with your neighbours, friends and family in Guelph. As your City Councillors, we want to reach more residents in Ward 2 and across the City of Guelph, so we can stay connected, get more feedback and have ongoing conversations with residents about your priorities for Guelph.
In this update you’ll find the following:
1) 2023 Confirmation Budget Highlights
2) Get Involved & Have Your Say (with a focus on the Strategic Plan Update)
3) Ward 2 Events, Opportunities & Resources
2023 Confirmation Budget
Written by Councillor Goller
Yesterday, after a nearly 9-hour-long meeting, City Council confirmed the 2023 budget. I’m happy to share that Carly and I worked hard to make some small but impactful changes to this budget.
These are the changes I brought forward:
- Continuing to invest $500,000 per year towards affordable and social housing (which City staff had removed from the budget);
- Funding of $202,500 per year for the Welcoming Streets initiative, which supports our downtown businesses and community members struggling with homelessness, addictions and mental health issues;
- Funding the Affordable Bus Pass Sliding Scale subsidy at a cost of $558,000 in 2023 and $458,000 each year thereafter. This subsidy provides affordable bus passes to community members living at or below the Low Income Cut Off. In total it supports about 1,800 people in Guelph or about 1.25% of our community, while significantly increasing public transit ridership;
- Funding to continue the Kids Ride Free pilot program until further decisions are made as part of the Transit Fare Strategy this spring;
Carly and I also supported these two changes brought forward by Mayor Guthrie and Cllr O’Rourke respectively:
- Funding of $150,000 to conduct a formal review of current gaps related to homelessness, addictions, and the mental health crisis in Guelph, working with community agencies to figure out what solutions can be put in place and how much those solutions would save us in policing and paramedic expenses;
- Funding of $300,000 per year for the next 5 years, for the Economic Development and Tourism strategy to support business service agencies like Innovation Guelph and the Guelph Wellington Business Centre.
We also supported the following measures to reduce the staff proposed budget increase by a half percent:
- A reduction of $1.4 million in funding for infrastructure renewal to help reduce the overall tax burden during a time of economic uncertainty. Given that the City had a $9 million surplus in 2022 because of construction project delays, we felt it was prudent to not continue to collect money for infrastructure renewal that we’re not able to use this year;
- A transfer of $1.1 million from reserves to address the forecasted cost increases due to provincial legislation. As we don’t yet know how the new legislation will play out, we felt it was not prudent to collect new taxes because we are expecting a “potential” increase in costs. There is still the possibility that the province will reimburse municipalities for our increased costs, as they have done during the pandemic.
- A slow-down of the phase-in for the South End Community Centre and Baker District Redevelopment operating impacts. The projects are due to open in 2026, and staff have been collecting additional taxes to cover the operating costs of those two facilities, which had previously been planned to be open sooner. Given the delay in the time to open these facilities, we felt comfortable not collecting those additional taxes this year. This decision was only for operating fees, as we both fully support the building and timely opening of the new Main Branch Library as part of the Bakes redevelopment project and the building of a new recreation centre in the South End.
This budget also included the accelerated expansion of Paramedic Services originally planned for 2025, to address the current issues with the shortage of ambulances due to hospital drop-off delays.
The 2023 budget was approved with a tax levy increase of 4.46%, which is 0.71% cent lower than the 5.17% which had been previously approved as part of the 2022-2023 multi-year budget.
Please note that the 4.46% tax levy increase does not mean that your property taxes are going up by that much. Over the next month City staff will break the total new budget and spread it out over residential, commercial, industrial and institutional zones, with each paying a different proportion. Industrial and Commercial areas take the lion’s share, and low-density residential zones pay a different proportion than medium and high-density residential.
So far staff have calculated that an average household, with a residential property assessed at $406,000, can expect to pay about $4,371 in property taxes in 2023. This is an annual increase of about $187 over 2022 or $16 per month.
The 2023 user fees and rates for water, wastewater and stormwater were confirmed without change from what was approved in the 2022-2023 Multi-Year Budget, equivalent to a 2.73 % increase over 2022, with an estimated annual average residential bill increase of about $26, or $2 per month.
For more details on the confirmed 2023 operating budget, including local boards and shared services, and capital budgets, click here to go to the City’s budget dashboard. You can also read the City’s news release by clicking here.
If you have any questions, concerns or feedback, please email us at [email protected], to let us know what you’re thinking.
Get Involved and Have Your Say!
Compiled by Councillor Klassen
A – Strategy Plan Update
On Tuesday, January 24th Guelph City Council participated in a public workshop to start building the strategy for our council term 2023-2026. You can read the consultant report here, which compiles the priorities that have so far been identified by Council and staff. If you are interested in this process, you can also watch the video recording of Tuesday’s session by clicking here.
We want to hear from you:
- How should we lead our city during this term?
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- What’s working well?
- How could we do better?
Send us an email to [email protected] to share your vision for Guelph with us.
B –Have your say! Wastewater Treatment and Biosolids Management Master Plan
The City of Guelph is updating our plan for how we manage wastewater in our city. The goal of the Waste Water Treatment and Biosolids Management Master Plan is to ensure that the City’s wastewater (everything flushed down your sinks, drains and toilets) is managed in a way that is sustainable, protects our waterways and environment. Review the draft and provide your input!
C – Artists in Residence
The program is open to artists and art collectives from all art forms, including visual (painting, sculpture), literary (poetry, collective works), performance (dance, music, opera, theatre, musical theatre), new media (film, television, radio, audio, video, animation, digital interactive), or multidisciplinary and intersectional. Submit your application before February 24th.
Ward 2 Events, Opportunities & Resources
Compiled by Councillor Klassen
International Women’s Day – March 8th
Celebrate International Women’s Day in Guelph-Wellington. The Guelph Business Center is hosting a celebration with a dinner, keynote speaker and vendor market at Victoria Road Golf Club. Register Here.
Juici Yoga Fundraiser and Celebration – Sunday, February 5th, 2023
The day will feature classes, workshops, food and a mini-market.
Circular Store Grand Opening – February 11th 11am-3pm
The Guelph Tool Library is opening a store that provides opportunities for people to consume and learn about the circular economy. The event will feature workshops and a repair cafe.
Guelph Museums: Fourth Friday February 24th
Every Fourth Friday of the month enjoy free admission to the Civic Museum from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and a free concert starting at 7 p.m.
To commemorate Black Heritage Month, Guelph Museums has partnered with Guelph Black Heritage Society for February’s Fourth Friday. We are pleased to host Shane Philips, an internationally acclaimed musician with a whole lot of soul. Philips is described as a singer whose voice is beyond his years and yet his message is timeless. Shane is an environmental and social activist, and his songs spread messages of change, love, and community.
Tickets are available starting tomorrow: January 27th, 2023.
That’s it for this second update of 2023. Please accept our apologies for sending two newsletters this month – we just figured it was important to give you an update on the budget and to start the conversation about the Strategic Plan Update.
Before we wrap things up, these are some highlights of what’s coming up for Council in February:
- February 7 – Committee of the Whole Meeting:
- Operations Campus Update
- Guelph Greener Homes Loan Program (we had been calling it PACE in the past) – By-law Approval
- February 14 – Planning Council Meeting:
- Ontario Reformatory Heritage Conservation District – Phase 1 Study and Recommendations
- February 22 – Council Strategic Planning Workshop #2
- February 28 – Council Meeting
- City of Guelph Housing Pledge for the Build More Homes Faster Act (Bill 23)
As always, you can find the full agendas for those meetings here (http://guelph.ca/agenda). Agendas are posted on Thursday or Friday, one full week before each meeting.
We look forward to hearing from you, particularly with any questions or concerns about the 2024-2027 Strategic Plan Update.
Carly & Rodrigo