December 6, 2017 12:42 pm

Guelph city council approves 2.95 per cent tax increase

Guelph city council approved a 2.95 per cent increase to the tax rate in 2018 following five hours of deliberations Tuesday

Matt Carty / CJOY News

After deliberating for five hours Tuesday, Guelph city council approved a $233-million operating budget that comes with a 2.95 per cent increase to the tax rate in 2018.

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The recommended increase originally came in at 4.4 per cent before councillors rejected many department expansions and dipped into a reserve fund, most of which will go towards paying for half of the one per cent infrastructure levy at a cost of $1.1 million.

“If the projected year-end variance was not at almost $2.4 million, I think I would not have been looking to use the rate stabilization reserve,” Mayor Cam Guthrie said after the meeting. “But this term of council has increased the rate stabilization reserve drastically by millions of dollars.”

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Guthrie said there is still about $6.2 million in that reserve.

Staff had recommended taxpayers foot the bill for the one per cent infrastructure levy, but Coun. Dan Gibson introduced an amendment to cut that in half. That was followed by another amendment from Coun. Christine Billings to take the other 0.5 per cent from the rate stabilization reserve, which was ultimately approved.

“No one is arguing that our infrastructure requires funding,” Guthrie said. “You’re always going to have 13 different voices around the horseshoe that have different ways of trying to fund infrastructure.”

As for the department expansions, council approved $399,200 for four full-time paramedics in Guelph and $525,000 to expand waste collection at the multi-residential properties, although $278,000 of that would be funded through a capital reserve fund.

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Council rejected $460,000 to increase yard waste collection and $323,000 for an affordable housing financial incentive program.

“For us to find over $2.3 million to bring that operating budget down was substantial, a lot of work, and it was nice to have it unanimously approved by those councillors that decided to vote,” Guthrie said.

Coun. Mike Salisbury did not vote on the operating budget after voicing his uneasiness over the procedure as he wanted to debate both the operating budget and infrastructure levy before voting, instead of voting on the items separately.

Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition gets an extra $100k

The Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition (GNSC) came out as winners, while affordable housing advocates were the losers.

Councillors voted to approve an extra $100,000 for the GNSC, but that money is coming out of the city’s affordable housing reserve.

A motion was tabled to take the money from the police budget, but that was shot down.

Coun. James Gordon also questioned why the $100,000 wasn’t being added to the budget.

Guthrie steps down as Royals owner

Before the deliberations got underway, Mayor Cam Guthrie announced he is stepping down as a co-owner of the Guelph Royals baseball team of the Intercounty Baseball League.

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Guthrie cited conflict of interest rules and said his role as owner of the baseball team was interfering in city business.

Since taking over the team with Kitchener businessman Shawn Fuller, Guthrie had been unable to take part in any matters pertaining to the team or their field, Hasting Stadium.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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