Thursday, January 8, 2009

Budget, Input and LIMITS

Guelph’s Got Budget

Just before Christmas, in what was comparatively a quite session over last year’s ruckus council meeting, Guelph now has a budget for the 2009 fiscal year. The good news is that the tax increase is coming in at 3.7 per cent, the lowest rate increase yet in the last five years. The bad news though is that just hours prior to the meeting, the Provincial government said that Guelph would not be receiving Ontario Municipal Partnership Funding for 2009, leaving a $1.45 million shortfall. But overall, staff was pleased with the result. “Our goal with this budget is to continue to provide high quality public services and ensure good value for people’s tax dollars,” says the City’s Treasurer, Margaret Neubauer in a press release. “It’s a matter of balancing the quality of service people expect from the City, with the cost of providing those services.”

But aside from keeping up present services, including making permanent seasonal overnight parking and free two-hour parking downtown, as well as the 20 minute bus service, there are some other new additions. Money has been promised to the completion of the east-end library and an additional $25,000 will be earmarked for the Neighbourhood Support Coalition. As for new city hires, additions to staff will include a new staffer for corporate communications, a supervisor of arts and culture and the hiring of one new police officer and four full-time and one part-time staffer for the police station. The Guelph Police force had originally asked that four more officers be hired for the new year.

City Council also directed city staff to investigate the impact of the OMPF cuts, be it in the form of service cuts or looking for new revenue. At the very least, the city will be appealing the Province’s decision, but other money issues did arise. Council was given notice the Friday before that Wellington County Health and Social Services revised its funding requirements and is asking for an additional $625,000 from the City. “While Council has approved the 2009 budget, the tax rate will be set early next year after further discussion with the Province and the County. We still have some time to consider our financial alternatives,” says Neubauer.

The vote passed unanimously and in a relatively reasonable amount of time for a budget meeting. Last year, the vote was disrupted by protestors that heckled council throughout the meeting before a fire alarm was pulled just prior to the taking of the vote.

Council wants your input

The City is inviting input from residents and delegations on the Development Charges Act, which is the proposed new development charges by-law. The background study and proposed by-law will be available for viewing on the City of Guelph’s website on January 12th while the meeting itself will take place in the Main Council Chamber on January 26th at 7 pm. To register as a delegation and speak to Council at this meeting contact Joyce Sweeney, Council Committee Co-ordinator at 519-822-1260 x 2440 or or Dolores Black Assistant Council Committee Co-ordinator at 519-822-1260 x 2269 or by Wednesday January 21st.

New Group looking to set LIMITS

Speaking of development, a new group called Land Is More Important Than Sprawl (LIMITS) is getting a jump on the new year to organize against the planned creation of the Hanlon Creek Business Park in the south end. Saying that the City of Guelph is looking to start development of the 675-acre site this spring, LIMITS is looking to light a fire under current or potential city activists to take up the cause. They’re holding a meeting on Monday January 12th at 7 pm at Fresh Start, 40 Baker Street downtown. “Currently we are only a few people, and we would love to diversify and be part of a strong community opposition to such reckless development,” said an e-mail. If your interested in joining up, helping out, or otherwise learning more about LIMITS and its cause, e-mail

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