2015 Budget Passes @ +3.55%

2015 Budget Passes @ +3.55%

In the early hours of this morning after a marathon session that ran nearly seven hours, Guelph council passed the 2015 city budget with a 9-4 vote. I voted yes. The budget increases the tax levy by 3.55% compared to 2014, which equals an average increase of $114 per household based on a home valued at $301,770. A brief statement can be found on the city website.

I have posted my entire voting record on budget night 2015 on the Votes page, but I also want to provide a brief snapshot of these individual motions here.

I supported and voted for the following changes to the proposed budget that staff presented, which would have represented a 3.05% levy increase. The lists below includes the financial impact on the tax levy amount:

• Removal of West End Rec Centre signage (-$25,000)
• Restart the York Road EA (+$60,000)
• Fund the Traffic Management Initiative (+$45,000)
• Move funds from Gapping Reserve to operating budget (-$150,000)
• Start repaying Urbacon lawsuit reserve fund (-$400,000)
• Remove funding for Asset Management positions (-$246,200)
• Reduce winter on-street parking ban to four months (+$100,000)
• Maintain current transit levels on Sundays/holidays (+$327,511)

These individual budget items I supported would have reduced the proposed tax levy increase by $368,609, reflecting a 0.18% reduction to a tax levy increase of 2.87%.

Additionally, as part of critical good governance, I voted to add $1M (though ultimately reduced to $500,000 through another vote) to the city’s depleted Tax Stabilisation Reserve. This reserve fund ensures the city runs a provincially mandated balanced budget each year in case an unexpected budget shortfall exists (such as what happened in 2014 with the big ice storm that required many hours of staff overtime). The reserve fund should be maintained as part of good governance in the $8M - $10M range but has dwindled to nearly nothing this year. Topping up this fund is an essential and fiscally responsible action, and I was eager to support this motion.

Consequently, all the motions to which I voted YES increased the proposed tax levy for 2015 by $631,391. There were other items councillors added to the budget that I voted against, but the above list provides a brief accounting of those I supported.

The final budget total stands at $207,297,226 or +3.55% over 2014. This increase is higher than I would have liked to see for affordability issues, but I believe is a reasonable and measured approach to providing the residents of Guelph with the services they need. That is why I voted in favour of the 2015 budget.

More to come later. Have a great weekend!