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Guelph’s 2020 capital budget approved without special tax levy

Guelph city council voted on its 2020 capital budget on Wednesday.
Guelph city council voted on its 2020 capital budget on Wednesday. Matt Carty / CJOY News

Guelph city council voted in favour of passing its 2020 capital budget on Wednesday night but did not include a special tax levy.

A report presented to councillors shows Guelph will have a shortfall of $52.1 million over the next decade when it comes to building projects. Staff had recommended a 2.19 per cent levy be phased in over three years as a result.

READ MORE: Property tax increase unclear as Guelph releases 2020 proposed operating budget

However, a motion presented by Ward 6 Coun. Mark MacKinnon to push back imposing the levy until 2021 passed 12-1.

MacKinnon said the motion was focused on getting more information on some projects that are in their early stages but also giving city staff a chance to secure funding from upper levels of government, specifically with respect to the proposed downtown library.

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“The reason to do this is because it is responsible to do it because we need information that we’re going to be getting in Q1 of next year to make the appropriate decisions,” he said.

The library project and its $67-million price tag have been a contentious one, and a large chunk of the 2.19 per cent increase would go towards its construction.

The city has applied for over $34 million in funding from upper levels of government, which could reduce that levy.

Mayor Cam Guthrie voted in favour of MacKinnon’s motion.

“I think that with the information and, hopefully, the good news that we get from upper levels of government with grants and the work that our staff can do over the next year, we can then attack this issue next year,” the mayor said.

READ MORE: Guelph General Hospital asks city council for $4.5 million

Ward 4 Coun. Christine Billings voted against the motion. She was against the levy altogether and would have liked to have seen specific projects deferred.

“Council, right now, has a spending problem — over a $50-million spending problem,” she said. “I don’t particularly want to punt this down the field [and] I’m not supportive of a zero, I’m supportive of reducing so that there is no levy at all.”

The passed motion means the proposed property tax increase for 2020 drops from 3.88 per cent to 3.15 per cent.

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The capital budget includes $151 million to be spent next year on aging roads and bridges, water infrastructure and planning for an operations campus.

The 10-year capital forecast is set at just over $1.7 billion, which includes the Baker District development and the South End Community Centre. Both will go to council for final approval next year.

READ MORE: Guelph police board approves $46 million 2020 budget

Guelph’s 2020 budget process will continue on Monday when the tax-supported operating budget is presented to city council.

Councillors are scheduled to vote on it during a meeting on Dec. 3.

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