Guelph-Eramosa approves 2021 budget with 0% tax increase

BRUCEDALE – Guelph-Eramosa council passed its 2021 budget on Dec. 21 – a budget that totals $18,522,333 – and it almost passed without notice.

“That’s the bylaw that sets the tax increase at zero per cent, isn’t it?” asked councillor Corey Woods after council approved “a bylaw to adopt the current estimates for 2021.”

“Yes, it is,” said Mayor Chris White, who then thanked staff for starting the 2021 budget process with a frugal first draft and finding creative ways to accommodate council’s subsequent requests.

“It hasn’t been easy, and it won’t be easy next year. There will be a lot of unknowns, especially with parks and rec,” he said.

“And now trying to accommodate the just-announced lockdown.”

Ontario’s announcement that the province will go into lockdown beginning Dec. 26 occurred during the course of the council meeting.

“[The budget is] responsible and still includes the projects we need to do,” White concluded.

The first draft of the 2021 budget was presented to council on Nov. 24 and called for a 0.54% increase to the tax rate.

At White’s urging, council asked staff to come back with a 0% increase.

Council also asked to include the connection of the Rockwood fire station to the fibre optic system being installed in the village.

The second draft came in at 0% and included the fibre optic project, costed out at $13,000.

Funding for that capital project will come from the modernization grant and therefore had no impact on the bottom line.

The final budget includes $4 million in capital projects, anticipates about $148,000 in lost revenue – mostly from limited programming and facility closures due to COVID-19 – and uses the provincial safe restart grant of $297,000 to cover these losses plus other COVID-related costs.

After scanning the provincial announcement about the lockdown, CAO Ian Roger said the new restrictions appear to impact parks and recreation programming the most.

Budget implications remain to be seen.

“Parks and rec will be closed for at least a month,” he said.

“We’ll have to see what happens after that.”