Guelph property owners can expect a six per cent increase in their property taxes next year without changes to the pace of planned projects, treasurer Tara Baker told city council Monday.
“At the end of the day, we will have to make some decisions and consider things that maybe could be stopped or slowed down,” she said during a council workshop about the upcoming 2022/2023 budget. “That’s really a council decision.”
The workshop was held several weeks ahead of the formal budget-setting process, intended to get council members thinking about setting priorities in terms of environmental impact, affordability and more.
“I think this will be a difficult budget,” commented Mayor Cam Guthrie, pointing to differing opinions that came forward during a council survey conducted ahead of the workshop.
For example, affordable housing and homelessness was identified as the top priority from a community perspective, with 20 per cent support, followed by decreasing the number of vehicles on the road and increasing police fire and paramedic response times, both at 15 per cent.
From a City of Guelph corporate perspective, the top priority was found to be implementing recommendations from the service rationalization review conducted last summer, at 20 per cent, trailed by addressing affordable housing and homelessness and modernization of city services, again each at 15 per cent.
There was also no clear consensus in terms of what an acceptable tax increase would be, with 45 per cent calling for the increase to be capped at two per cent, with 33 per cent think taxes could affordably be risen by three or more per cent.
Eleven per cent called for a one per cent tax increase, with an equal amount seeking a one per cent reduction.
Asked by Coun. Mark MacKinnon how such round figures were achieved, moderator Aiden Grove-White of Strategy Corp. explained they’re based on responses from 10 of the 13 council members.
The non-participating council members weren’t identified.
Draft city budget documents are slated to be publicly released on Nov. 4, with a formal presentation to council on Nov. 16. Council is tentatively set to finalize the 2022/2023 budget on Dec. 2.
Baker explained draft budget being created now includes pulling from reserves more than in the past, along with new or increased revenue streams
“Our excellent reserve position is allowing us to do that and help mitigate and phase in the impact of inflation and some of the increases that we’ve been seeing,” she said. “I think the good work of the past is paying off right now.”