Guelph-Eramosa passes 2008 budget with 2% spending hike

Guelph-Eramosa residents will be paying 2% more on the township’s portion of their tax bills this year.
On Monday night, council approved its 2008 budget, which totals over $10.94-million, up approximately 25% over last years’s budget of $8.74 million.
Total revenue for 2008 is budgeted at $7,157,628, which leaves $3,784,832 to be raised through property taxes.
That figure is up by 4.5% over last year, but increased assessment  throughout the town­ship means residents will see only a 2% increase on their township tax bill.
“The 2008 budget supports new services, a significant in­crease in infrastructure investment, and a modest below-inflation tax increase of two per cent,” Mayor Chris White said.
The taxpayer with a home assessed at the average of $300,000 will pay $813 in town­ship taxes this year, an in­crease of just over $15 from 2007.
Township taxes make up about 20% of the overall tax bill, with the province’s portion for education at about 25%, and the county’s portion at 55%. Although the education portion remains unchanged in 2008, early estimates are that county taxes could be up just over 5% this year.
The largest portion of the township budget is transportation, at about $5.28-million, which includes the following capital items:
– replacement of four brid­ges at a cost of $2.23-million, with two-thirds coming from COMRIF funding;
– final engineering for the reconstruction of the 5th Line;
– replacement of a five-ton works truck;
– completion of part two of a roads need study;
– 37km of centre line painting, as well as a new line paint­er for stop blocks and parking lots;
– geotechnical investigation of 2nd Line East;
– paving Schaefer Road and 8th Line East, using almost $200,000 from the federal gas tax transfer; and
– smaller capital items such as a new plow for the trackless machine and a ditching bucket for the backhoe.
The budget also includes other new township services, including crossing guards in the Rockwood area, night road patrols in the winter, grounds maintenance at the Rockwood cemetery, improved winter main­tenance on sidewalks, and a splash pad at Rockmosa Park (pending an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant).
Protection to persons and property expenses – including fire services, the building department, bylaw enforcement and property standards, canine control, the GRCA levy, and the emergency measures program – total almost $1.18-million this year.  
Fire department expenses make up the majority of that figure, at $607,305 – up less than 1.5% over last year. The main change is increased wag­es to accommodate for the additional call volume and re­quired training.
General government ex­penses are up 3.5% this year to over $1.17-million.
That in­clud­es $25,000 for the investigation of expanding the municipal administration building in Brucedale and $60,000 to comply with new reporting standards mandated by the Public Sector Accounting Board.
Also supported by the 2008 budget are the environmental stewardship, trails, and commercial corridor improvements committees.
The entire 2008 budget can is available at or at the township office.
The budget was unanimously passed on Monday night. Councillor Roger Knapp was absent.
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The only change made to the budget since the public meet­ing on Jan. 28 was the addition of a $6,000 donation for the East Wellington Family Health Team (FHT).
On Monday night, its president, Erik Stern, told council his organization has met with the Ministry of Health four times recently, and is “one bud­get line away” from receiving funding from the ministry.
However, the sticking point seems to be that the ministry refuses to fund several items, including promotional materials and doctor recruitment for the Rockwood clinic – which are definitely necessities, Stern said. The $6,000 would help cover those costs.
“We desperately need two doctors,” Stern said, noting there are almost 2,000 patients in the area, and one doctor.
Stern told council he would also be visiting Erin council on Tuesday to seek financial help from that municipality.
Mayor White said he thinks the donation is a no-brainer.
“If we don’t fund this the whole thing is at risk,” White said.
Councillor Doug Breen supported the donation and called it “bridge financing.”
The rest of council agreed and approved the donation, which will come out of the Rock­wood Hydro reserve fund.
Record building year
Last year was a record year for the building department in Guelph-Eramosa.
In 2007, there were 388 permits issued, up 58% over 2006. And the total value of construction was almost $42.5-million, up 68% over the previous year.
While he was expecting an increase over 2006 numbers, Chief Building Official Mike Newark said he was surprised at the huge increases last year.
Councillors were also blown away by the numbers. Doug Breen said he can re­member not that long ago getting excited about $16-million worth of construction in a year.
The number of construction projects in Guelph-Eramosa – and particularly Rockwood – is expected to increase in the future, given the anticipated effects of provincial policies like the Places to Grow and Greenbelt legislations.