Thursday, February 10, 2011

Budget, Snow Days and Baseball

There Will Be Budget

Opening arguments were made for the 2011 capital and operating budgets last Monday night at City Council. First the good news: revenues are bouncing back and signs point to a recovery in the local economy following the last, great worldwide recession. Because of that, the City’s looking to loosen the purse strings and get hiring. Additionally, there will be no five-day layoffs or shutdowns in 2011, with the City of Guelph being open all 52 weeks this year. Most of the new hiring has to do with the plethora of new city facilities coming on line this year – the transit hub, Market Square, the new Civic Museum and Organic Waste Plant. Additionally, there are new city facilities that were opened in 2010, that will now have to be covered for a full year of operating expenses.

But you can’t have good news without some bad news, and though a lot of the pre-recession spending was returned, not all of it was. There’ll be no 20-minute service for Guelph Transit this summer, and indeed, there may even be a cash fare increase of 10 cents, which could be integrated as early as May. But Transit may not be the only fee increase coming to a city service near you in 2011; parking fees in particular will increase with the additional revenue being put towards transit. As for the number we’ve all been waiting for, the bump in the property tax, which will see an increase by 5.67 per cent. City Staff wanted to make particular note that they were trying to balance sustainability and affordability in going in to this year’s budget.

To learn more about this year’s budget and to follow the process along in the coming month, go to my blog at

In Reverse

Was everybody else underwhelmed by the “snow-pocalypse” that hit us last week? Certainly, there were a lot of people unpleased initially by the sheer tonnage of snow being forecast, and then later by the fact that we only got a percentage of what was promised. Apparently, there’s no pleasing some people. Too much snow, not enough snow, and on top it, the whole thing went down on Groundhog Day. Cosmic coincidence, or was Mother Nature flipping us the bird for all the whining despite the fact that this was the worst winter storm to hit us in over two years?

But out of that contradiction came an even more interesting phenomenon. For only when the weather threatens to make the Hoth system look like a tropical vacation does the University of Guelph pre-emptively shut its doors. To all our U of G readers, I hope you enjoyed your snow day, because God knows there’s a better chance of a rich man passing through the eye of a needle than the administration of the University deciding to put the kibosh on a day of classes. I went to school at the U of G for four years and worked there for another three, and I can count on one hand the number of times that place was closed. It’s not often that the phrase “Once in a Blue Moon” gets taken so literally.

No Joy in Royal City Ville

The outlook wasn't brilliant for Guelph baseball fans last Wednesday; time had run out and the City’s Intercounty Baseball League team, The Royals, had no more innings to play. The last hope for a lease at Hastings Stadium died first, and the patience of the IBL did the same. A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game. It was a silence that seemed to extend to Royal’s president and managing partner Jim Rooney, who emailed a short news release last Wednesday afternoon to the Guelph Mercury. It said that his team “has not reached an agreement for a long-term lease agreement with the City of Guelph. As a result, the Team will ask the IBL to suspend operations for the 2011 season.”

Big deal, you may scoff, it’s just small town baseball. Well the situation is this: The Royals are one of the IBL’s founding members, now benched for the 2011 season. The difficulty isn’t just in the fact that an agreement on the stadium wasn’t quite able to be reached, but because the matter ate additional time needed to shore up the team’s financials for this coming season. The shame of it is that The Royals are a solid team. They’ve made the playoffs the last 11 seasons in a row, won back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004, and have made it so far as the semi-finals the last three years in a row. Strange that this winning team shall be forced to stay home for a year, while the Blue Jays continue to fumble all the way to the bottom of the standings… C’est la vie.

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