Guelph/Eramosa council discusses proposed 2024 budget

BRUCEDALE – Guelph/Eramosa residents may be facing a property tax increase of about five per cent next year.

Township staff presented a draft 2024 budget to council on Nov. 22 that included a 5.5% tax hike.

But after receiving feedback from councillors, staff are considering paths to limit the increase to 4.9%. 

For a $500,000 home, a 5.5% increase equates to a $78 tax increase next year, while a 4.9% increase is $64 more per year. 

Reducing property tax

A significant portion of the budget is money added to reserve funds for future projects, and Mayor Chris White suggested reducing the tax increase by limiting the amount added to infrastructure renewal reserves from $136,000 to $100,000. 

White also noted the tax rate discussed is only a portion of the property taxes Guelph/Eramosa residents pay – it does not include the taxes paid to Wellington County or to the province for education. 

Limiting the tax increase is important, said White, noting “this is people’s hard earned money.

“You’ve got to keep tax rates that are acceptable to the community, or you lose credibility.”

Councillor Mark Bouwmeester agreed the property tax increase should be kept under 5%. “It’s the council’s job to go through and find where we can find that savings,” he said. 

Councillor Bruce Dickieson, however, said he is comfortable keeping the reserve increases, and tax rate increases, as proposed in the draft. 

Dickieson implied tax increases are not important to Guelph/Eramosa residents, reflecting on the year the increase was zero, and “no one remembered.” 

He said reducing the amount added to reserve funds is irresponsible as it places “the burden on future generations to pay for stuff.

“I don’t have any problem backing up a tax increase as long as we can justify it, and I think this is very justifiable myself,” he said.

For Dickieson, the key is strong messaging. 

“How we communicate this, I think, is vitally important because you want to stay lean on the operating so you can support the capital now and in the future,” he said.

“I’m fully supportive of keeping it as lean as possible, but at the same time not at the expense of cutting reserves by too much.” 

White assured he is not suggesting reserves be cut – only that they be increased by less than proposed in the draft budget. 

Budget breakdown 

The total proposed 2024 budget is $20,567,313, down from $21,924,162 last year.

Significant cost pressures on this year’s budget include increased:

  • wages and salaries (up by 3.8% to adjust for increased cost of living);
  • employee benefit costs;
  • City of Guelph fire protection services; and
  • insurance premium. 

Big ticket capital items in the budget include:

  • resurfacing Fife Road ($740,000 from the OCIF);
  • resurfacing Skyway Drive ($226,000 from the CCBF);
  • Catherine Street Railway watermain crossing ($750,000 from development charges);
  • Alma Street watermain replacement ($245,000 from reserves);
  • Water treatment supervisory control and data acquisition system upgrades ($120,00 from reserves);
  • self-contained breathing apparatus replacements for firefighters ($317,000 from reserves);
  • road grader lease buyout ($239,000 from reserves);
  • tandem axle plow sander replacement ($404,000 from reserves);
  • single axle plow sander replacement ($180,000 from reserves); and
  • Brucedale shop replacement design ($150,000 from reserves).

A number of these items are carried over from previous budgets. 

The $20.6 million budget will be paid for with:

  • water and wastewater user rates and development charges ($5 million);
  • other development charges, user fees, grants and reserves ($7.1 million); and
  • property taxes ($8.5 million).  

At this point the amount of grant funding for the 2024 budget is unclear, as the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund and Canada Community-Building Fund amounts are yet to be confirmed. The Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund amount will be $453,000, a decrease of about $9,000. 

There will be a public meeting about the proposed budget on Dec. 13 at 1pm. People can attend in person at the council chamber or join virtually over Zoom.

Council will consider passing the budget on Jan. 15 at 1pm. People can attend in person or virtually via Zoom.