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No public questions on Guelph-Eramosa budget

by Phil Gravelle

BRUCEDALE - The weather was fine on Thursday evening last week when Guelph Eramosa Township held a special meeting to present the 2019 budget to the public.

Staff were primed with explanations on how they plan to spend $22.2 million, raising taxes by 2.85 per cent, about $36 on a typical property.

Councillors were prepared to take the heat and reporters had pens in hand, but there was only one member of the public in attendance.

He said public spending is generally “out of control”, but had no questions about the budget.

The meeting had been postponed from the previous Monday due to a snow storm. The budget itself was essentially unchanged since a draft version was discussed on Feb. 11.

“The goal of council and staff was to deliver a steady-as-you go budget that is in line with inflation and focuses on our core services,” said Mayor Chris White this week, after council gave final approval Monday night.

“In 2019, the Township of Guelph-Eramosa will be making investments in upgrading roads and bridges, installing energy-efficient lighting, working to complete Rockmosa Park and upgrading water and waste water infrastructure.”

The 2.85 per cent property tax increase is for the township portion of the tax bill, which is 24% of total taxes. County taxes make up 56% of the total, including a 2.8% increase, and education represents 20%, with no increase this year.

Based on that weighting, finance director Linda Cheyne estimates that the blended tax increase will be 2.33%, an increase of $24 for each $100,000 of residential assessment. For a home assessed at $500,000, the overall bill would be $5,331 in 2019, up $120 since 2018.

For township taxes only, the estimated increase is $7.15 per $100,000 of residential assessment, or about $36 for a home assessed at $500,000. The county increase is $16.89 per $100,000, or $84.45 for a $500,000 home.

“An increase of 2.85 per cent is nothing to cry about,” said Councillor Mark Bouwmeester. “Most of it is going to capital.”

He said the portion of the tax increase related to operating expenses is less than inflation, which has averaged 1.9% over the last four months and 2.2% over the last 12 months.

The township is benefiting from a 2% increase in growth-related assessment, which provides revenue to offset higher taxes.

Out of $22.2 million in overall township spending, there is $6.6 million for water and wastewater operations and infrastructure improvements. This is funded by user rates, not by taxation.

Other spending includes regular operating expenses at $7.9 million, other capital projects at $4.8 million, transfers to reserves at $2.3 million and long-term debt repayment at $0.6 million.

Out of $22.2 million in revenue, $6.6 million comes from user rates, with $8.8 million raised through user fees, grants, financing, development charges and reserves. Only $6.8 million comes from property taxes.

There will be no increase to the number of full-time staff and there will be no new debt incurred. There will be a cost of living pay increase of 2.2% for staff, based on council’s salary policy.

Resident Gord Thomson, the only member of the public in attendance, said that work done by the public sector is more expensive per unit, or per hour, compared to the private sector.

He said the township could save money by having basic services such as road or park maintenance done by private firms, not township staff.

He is concerned about the combined costs of management, equipment, benefits and pensions, in addition to hourly pay for staff.

Outside the meeting, he said public sector spending has been “out of control for decades”.

The 2019 capital budget is estimated at $8.3 million, compared to $6.4 million in 2018, an increase of $1.9 million or 29.7%.

It includes $195,750 for general administration, $64,000 for fire and emergency services, $3,444,000 for water/wastewater projects, $3,392,000 for other public works and $1,158,650 for parks and recreation.

In general administration, the township is spending $60,000 for work on the Asset Management Plan, to create an inventory of core infrastructure, defining current levels of service and estimating the costs of maintaining that infrastructure.

Council has allocated $120,500 for completion of the basement at the Brucedale administration centre to include a training centre, an operations centre for emergency management and additional office and meeting space.

Proposed capital projects costing at least $500,000 are:

- $1.3 million for 6th and 7th Line resurfacing;

- $1.28 million for Bedford Road reconstruction;

- $1.26 million for a new water pumping station at 154 Milne Place;

- $753,650 for Rockmosa Park development;

- $560,000 for Harris Street watermain replacement;

- $520,000 for a culvert replacement on Road 3.


March 8, 2019


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