Guelph-Eramosa council zeroing in on zero tax increase

BRUCEDALE – Guelph-Eramosa council seems intent on presenting taxpayers with a zero per cent property tax increase – at least on its portion of the tax bill.

Council heard on Dec. 7 that reaching zero is possible.

Director of finance Linda Cheyne brought updated numbers to council since the draft budget was first presented on Nov. 24.

Growth has been confirmed at 1.69% and not 1.8% as appeared in the first draft.

This amounts to about $3,000 less in the calculations.

Guelph-Eramosa will receive $445,088 from the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) which will be transferred to reserves for use on roads and bridges. It has no impact on property taxes.

Insurance is increasing by 21% “which is another $22,000 to account for,” Cheyne said.

The first draft pegged the increase at 15%, or $17,000.

“It’s a significant increase, mostly on the vehicle side,” she said, adding senior staff is talking to the insurance provider to look for ways to decrease this expense.

But she doesn’t hold much hope.

“It’s what’s happening out there,” she said.

Council had asked on Nov. 24 what it would cost to upgrade fibre optic cable at the Rockwood fire station to improve its internet and communications with Guelph Fire.

Cheyne said it would cost $13,000 and could come from the modernization grant, “so it doesn’t affect the bottom line.”

Councillors agreed to forgo a cost of living increase for themselves but stopped short of freezing wages for staff. The cost of living increase is pegged at .5% and adds $15,000 to the budget.

“I was never comfortable with staff not getting cost of living,” said councillor Bruce Dickieson.

“It was admirable for the directors to agree to forgo it, but it should increase across the board for staff.”

Council received the report for information.

Dec. 15 is a public budget meeting and council hopes to approve the budget on Dec. 21.