Thursday, January 27, 2011

Feedback and Taxes

Feedback Season on City Issues

So for those us out there who are still in need of a New Year’s Resolution, or have given up on getting in shape less than one month in to 2011, why not make increased civic engagement your goal for this year. There are, coming up, a few ways to get started.

First, the budget process gets rolling on Monday with the regular city council meeting. On the agenda that evening is an overview of the tax-supported operating and capital budgets. Think of it as a sneak preview of coming attractions; a little sample of things to come. No delegations will be heard on the budget this meeting and no decisions will be made, but for background, this is a good place to start.

And if you want to get deeper into the budget, the actual “meat and potatoes” of the process, you better cancel your Valentine’s Day plans (or move it to the lunch hour) because that night is the official presentation of the tax-supported operating and capital budgets from all City departments. As well, separate budget presentations from Guelph Police Services, Guelph Public Library, Guelph Museums, Social Services, Social Housing, Health Unit will continue the next night. Want to have your say? That’s the next week on February 22nd. If you want to be heard as a delegation, you’ll have to book your spot in advance with the Clerk’s office. Keep your eyes peeled to the City Hall section of

If Guelph’s historical heritage is more your speed, then you’ll want to get out to Harcourt Memorial United Church, 87 Dean Ave, at 7 pm tonight for an Open House about the Heritage District Brooklyn College Hill. The open house is being sponsored by Heritage Guelph and will provide information regarding the potential for a Heritage Conservation District Study Area to be established within the Brooklyn College Hill area. (Not sure where that is? It’s the Gordon St. corridor that covers areas south of Wellington St and north of College Ave.) Community members are being invited to learn about what’s required to study and conserve heritage and cultural resources in the area. Public input is being requested and the interest level of area residents in such a study will be gauged.

Guelph Tax Rate Debate Round 3

Following last fall’s election there was some question as where exactly the Royal City ranked amongst municipalities its size in terms of taxes. The assertion of many city officials is that Guelph is one of the lowest in the province, while a study last fall apparently showed that Guelph is third behind Toronto and Ottawa as the taxiest place in Ontario.

Last week, the City sent out a press release citing a recent study from BMA Management Consulting Inc, which compared municipal taxes, water and wastewater rates in Guelph with those in 10 similar cities across Ontario. The results, apparently, hold up the City’s version of this debate, concluding that the tax burden in Guelph is among the lowest in the survey. The findings were presented to the Corporate Administration, Finance and Emergency Services Committee last Tuesday.

"The full study compares over 80 municipalities in Ontario and is expected to be published later this month,” said City Treasurer Margaret Neubauer. “Today, BMA presented an in-depth comparison of Guelph, Barrie, Brantford, Burlington, Cambridge, Kingston, London, Oakville, St. Catharines and Waterloo. BMA uses this group of comparator cities based on growth patterns, location, size and governance structure."

The report also said that the average amount of property taxes paid by the City last year went up, but it was close to the average of the 10 cities, The average bungalow owner in Guelph paid the lowest property taxes, and the average senior executive owner paid the third lowest. Indeed, tax rates for multi-residential properties in Guelph are higher than the average, but Neubauer points out that the City has lowered the tax ratio on multi-residentials by 10.5 per cent the last two years, and that will continue over the next two years.

The study also suggested Guelph needs to spend more money to maintain capital assets, and that the City should increase its savings in order to help maintain its infrastructure. It also said that recent policies relating to debt management and long-term financial plans are making a positive difference in the City’s financial health. The financial dashboard and the presentation by BMA Management Consulting Inc can be seen on the City’s website at

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