Residents weigh in on Puslinch Township’s proposed budget

PUSLINCH – The property tax increase in Puslinch is currently sitting at 4.1 per cent for every property type and even though there was some grumbling about it at a public meeting on Jan. 17, that number is unlikely to change.

Director of finance Mary Hasan presented the budget during the hybrid meeting, which saw just one member of the public present in chambers and a small number on the zoom call.

Hasan pointed out the budget is the township’s “best estimate” of what services will actually cost over the course of the year.

She said new assessment growth has been pegged at about 3% – new money that serves to keep the tax increase down for ratepayers.

“If not for [assessment growth] we’d see a 7% tax increase,” she said.

Hasan noted the operating budget has increased this year for many reasons, including cost of living wage adjustments, an increase in City of Guelph dispatch services, further phasing of the Cambridge Fire Services contract and an increase in calcium (used on gravel roads), fuel and insurance costs.

Four new staff positions are also in the budget – a junior planner, building services technician, fire chief and facility operator – although these have a nominal tax levy impact, she said, given the positions are funded through other funding sources such as reserves.

There are a few decisions that have reduced the tax levy, such as a decrease in professional development, mileage and other travel costs across the corporation; a decrease in advertising costs, office supplies and equipment costs; and increased revenue from interest on investments.

There are several capital projects in the 2024 budget as well as contributions to reserves and discretionary reserves.

Among the big-ticket items are:

  • work on Watson Road South from Wellington Road 37 (Arkell Road) to Maltby Road East, $1,075,000;
  • server and network infrastructure replacement, $75,000;
  • a half-ton crew cab pick-up truck, $55,000;
  • another $150,000 to complete work at the Puslinch Community Centre (PCC);
  • window and door replacement at the PCC, $140,000; and
  • $1.6million into discretionary reserves and almost $700,000 to restricted reserves.

Hasan said the reserves are “looking healthy. It’s good to see.”

Puslinch resident Margaret Hauwert attended the meeting via Zoom and asked what services the county provides, since the county portion of the tax bill is so large.

Mayor James Seeley listed social services (affordable housing and childcare), garbage and recycling collection, libraries, policing, ambulance services, roads, economic development and land division as the key services the county provides.

Hauwert was also disappointed with the community engagement piece.

The township has a survey about the budget for residents to fill out but so far only 22 people have done so.

“That’s disappointing. That’s not very many people,” she said.

Hauwert suggested more effort should go into informing residents about public engagement opportunities and also explaining the tax bill breakdown between county and township.

Jason Ganning, another resident, asked his questions in-person in the council chamber.

He raised questions about staff salaries and the fact Puslinch raises salaries for staff because other municipalities do.

“Why do we have to follow suit?” he asked. “When people in the private sector are not getting raises, we don’t like to see people in the public sector getting it.”

Mayor James Seeley explained it’s important to have good staff and too easy to lose them to neighbouring municipalities like Guelph or Waterloo.

Ganning also thought the township was spending too much on gravel and should be reclaiming the gravel that winds up along the shoulder of gravel roads.

Mike Fowler, director of public works, parks and facilities, said if the township doesn’t top up the gravel roads, “you will get to the sub base – clay and rock. We need to keep at least a six-inch base.”

All of council was present but there was no discussion and no decisions were made, as is usual at public meetings.

Council is expected to approve the budget on Feb. 7 meeting, but there’s still time to comment.

The budget survey can be found at