Budget lands at a 3.14% increase

March 4, 2011


Council finalized its budget last night at a 3.14% increase.

Most of the discussion during budget deliberations is about what we cannot afford to do.  What rarely gets much attention is what we will be doing for our community with this budget.  Here are a few highlights:

  • responding to an alarming increase in domestic violence
  • keeping our city the safest in Canada by enhancing community policing resources
  • ensuring residents and businesses in the south end have the same level of fire protection services as others in our city
  • getting our paramedics to people faster to save lives
  • improving our financial management practices
  • showcasing our local history
  • bringing the new skating rink and water feature in front of City Hall to life
  • protecting the peace and quiet of our residential neighbourhoods
  • investing in transit
  • moving forward with critical repairs to our buildings

Our quality of life is rated among the best in the country and this budget will continue to make Guelph a great place to live and invest.

So, did we “raid” reserves or not to achieve this budget. There will be different opinions on this but this is what was done so you can judge for yourself.

First, what are reserves?  Essentially, they are like a savings accounts.  We put money aside so it is in the bank when we need to spend it. 

Council used funds that had accumulated in three reserves to assist with the 2011 budget.   Two were operating reserves and they were used for operating expenditures.  One was a capital reserve and it was used for capital expenditures.  So far so good.

Funds from the Social Services Reserve will be used to pay for one-time costs related to —— social services and community well being.

Funds from the Rate Stabilization Reserve were used to —— manage the tax rate.  The purpose of this reserve is to manage the tax rate.  

Funds from a Capital Reserve, albeit for parking infrastructure, will be used to —– pay for high risk capital repairs to our facilities.  There are always competing demands for capital spending. In this case, making repairs to our facilities trumped parking.

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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11 Comments on “Budget lands at a 3.14% increase”

  1. Paul Says:

    You missed giving yourself a raise!

  2. Craig Chamberlain Says:

    I think Council missed an opportunity to lead by example, with the credibility that goes with that in not forgoing an increase in pay. Actions matter. I think it would have been a good faith gesture that would have improved staff buy-in into looking for AND implementing savings.

    I was glad to see that there will be public update reporting to council on lawsuits in which we are involved.

    The brass ring in good fiscal management is to be able to add to reserves WHILE doing some important things with tax dollars AND managing the tax burden asked of ratepayers.

  3. Bill Hulet Says:

    This whining about pay for the mayor and council reminds me of a discussion with a co-worker. This took place many years ago, so the numbers have changed. He was complaining bitterly about all the money we “wasted” on paying “huge” salaries to the Mayor and Councilors. I happened to know that because of all the baloney from loud-mouthed voters, the Council hadn’t had a raise in years. In fact, I pointed out to my co-worker that he actually made slightly more than the mayor. (Something like $30,000/year at that time.)

    Without taking time for one breath, this doorknob instantly started ranting that the reason why our politicians were so awful was because they were so poorly paid. “You get what you pay for—.”

    I now have a new co-worker who replaced this other guy after he retired. He comes from Toronto. He said that he was amazed by how whiny a lot of Guelph people are about just about everything to do with the city.

    The pay rate is set by an independent body that uses an objective criteria to develop pay scales. We get incredible value out of the mayor and most councilors who put in long, long hours and accept an appalling amount of abuse by nasty, self-righteous and ill-informed people.

  4. Greg Says:

    Bill – I couldn’t agree more! I would never take on the role of mayor or councillor and all the abuse that goes with it for that amount of money. It definitely shows that they are doing it because they love Guelph, and not for the money.

  5. Ryan Says:

    How about we repair our terrible roads. We used the governments money the first time, but we are far from done. I am sure the transit mechanics would thank you as the toll on the suspension and tires is adding up. Along with all your citizens of this fine city. Take a trip up Edinburg rd from Wellington to Kortright, or how about Stone rd east of Gordon. Does the city have a deal with tire and suspension companies? I have lived here 11 years and have only seen things get worse. The patch work also leaves nothing to be desired. Please do something.

  6. ksulliva Says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I will bring your concerns to the attention of the City’s manager of roads. You can also “report a pothole” by contacting the Operations Department at operations@guelph.ca or 519-837-5628; please provide the exact location and they will send a road maintenance crew to follow up on it.

    Kate Sullivan
    Mayor’s Office

  7. GrumpyOldCorporal Says:

    All this hot air in favour of the Mayor’s raise reminds me of a conversation with a certain blogger. This fellow felt that the elected officials of a certain city ought to get a big raise.

    I noticed some opposition on other blogs. The posts asked what the officials had done to deserve their raise? Had they performed well? Was the city keeping its costs under control?

    Just working hard and sticking around isn’t enough, the posters wrote. Did the city start out in a great position from which even mediocre management might keep things going well enough for quite a while? In such a case the officials would deserve a mediocre raise.

    Did the city start out with poor finances, in a spending spree which the officials had halted by their hard work? Had they prioritized important items- say, public health- over expensive new buildings? If so, they deserved an excellent raise.

    Or had the city started in an enviable position, with low taxes, a good standard of living, and careful management, which the officials had blown on expensive silly ad campaigns, expensive backfiring lawsuits, and expensive executive offices? In that case, the posters wrote, the officials should not only get no raise, they should be turfed from office.

    One poster, far down the page on an out-of-the-way site, typed: Perhaps there are some of the officials who are good, and others bad. Maybe some of the officials oppose the silly spending every chance they get, but are outvoted. Maybe only some of the officials vote for the large tax increases, for the expensive legal actions, for keeping public health in a warehouse while mismanaging the glitzy building contracts. Maybe there are some officials who deserve a raise for looking out for the hardworking taxpayer, while others deserve to be fired for spending money on vanity projects and spending their time on Google StreetView.

    I thought the posters, and especially the person who thought the careful savers deserved a raise while the careless spenders didn’t, were right on the ball. The syncophant blogger didn’t agree. He thought the posters’ concern at the ever-increasing tax rate was just “whining”.

  8. Bill Hulet Says:


    Where you and I part company is with regard to our base assumptions. I get the feeling from your post that you believe that you are living in the Guelph of many years ago. This simply isn’t true. The present Council has to deal with the “Places to Grow” legislation, which means that it has to rapidly build up a lot of infrastructure to accommodate the projected rapid growth in population. Moreover, at the same time it has to deal with decades of grotesquely bad planning that allowed the city to sprawl in a form that makes infrastructure maintenance really expensive. Moreover, they have to do all of this while at the same time doing the foundational work to transition Guelph to a world where energy keeps getting more and more expensive and global climate change makes everything a lot more difficult.

    I think that given the difficult hand that the Mayor and Council have been dealt they have done a marvelous job of balancing the problems I’ve identified above with the need to get value for the money.

    If a person is oblivious to these problems, I could see how they might think that Council is being profligate, but once you start to see these larger trends, I think they’ve been very frugal.

  9. kfarbridge Says:

    Dear Grumpy Old Corporal,

    Care to let us know who you are?


  10. Laura Murr Says:

    Could you please indicate where the money in the reserves comes from? Is it from the hydro dividends? The 1.5 million dollars a a year that is transferred from hydro to the city?

  11. ksulliva Says:

    Hi Laura,

    The money in the Rate Stabilization Reserve comes from year-end operating surpluses. This reserve was established in 2002 (See https://mayorsblog.guelph.ca/2011/03/18/leadership-style/)
    Funds in the parking reserve came from user fees.

    Kate Sullivan
    Mayor’s Office

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