Guelph/Eramosa council now considering 4.9% tax increase

BRUCEDALE – Guelph/Eramosa Township has bumped its proposed 2023 tax increase from 3.76 to 4.85 per cent, but no one attended a public meeting on Jan. 4 to speak for or against the change.

The township is grappling with inflation, labour shortages, insurance increases, shrinking government grants and fallout from Bill 23 – like every other municipality in the province.

It has proven to be an uphill battle to keep the increase within inflation, which is sitting at 6.7%, said director of finance Linda Cheyne as she outlined the proposed budget.

A $21.5-million budget was first presented to council on Dec. 6 with $15.6 million in operating expenses and $5.9 million in capital projects.

At that meeting, council decided to expand the Guelph/Nichol Townline resurfacing project to include the full length of the road, from Jones Baseline to Highway 6, rather than the shorter stretch originally budgeted for.

It was seen as more economical to repave the entire road in one shot rather than to do it piecemeal, council decided.

But that decision increased the cost of the road project from $713,000 to $1.15 million.

And in a subsequent in-camera meeting, council decided to increase staff wages by 5% to remain competitive with surrounding municipalities and to help retain staff.

The township has also since learned its Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) allocation has been decreased from $918,994 last year to $781,145 this year – a reduction of $137,849 and a significant hit to the budget.

Those three factors increased the overall budget by some $400,000 to $21.9 million and led to the higher rate increase, Cheyne explained in an email to the Advertiser.

The other capital projects in the budget remain unchanged from the Dec. 6 presentation. Among them:

  • Catherine Street/railway watermain crossing connection in Rockwood, at a cost of $650,000;
  • a second set of bunker gear for firefighters, $150,000 ($75,000 from 2022 and $75,000 from 2023);
  • resurface 4th Line from Highway 7 to Wellington Road 124, $1.4 million;
  • watermain replacement on Alma Street in Rockwood, $245,000;
  • backup emergency generator at Royal Distributing Athletic Performance Centre, $142,000;
  • Marden Park culvert replacement, $360,000;
  • updated parks and rec master plan, $75,000;
  • facility condition assessment, $75,000;
  • Rockmosa Park playground equipment replacement, $110,000;
  • digital message signage throughout township, $285,000;
  • development charges review study, $30,000; and
  • construction of a storage mezzanine at the fire hall, $110,000.

The proposed 4.85% increase translates to an additional $12.88 per $100,000 of assessment, or about $64 to the tax bill on a home worth $500,000.

Councillor Steven Liebig said that prior to becoming a councillor he wondered what went on at township hall “behind the glass.

“Now I can say to taxpayers we are fortunate to have a really good crew behind the glass. And on budget, I’m quite satisfied with the way it looks,” he said.

“I appreciate the hard work staff does on the budget,” agreed Mayor Chris White.

“They’ve done a good job getting below the inflation rate.”

No decisions were made at this meeting, but the budget will be considered again at the Jan. 16 council meeting.