Guelph City council approved its first multi-year budget on Thursday, which will see a 4.21 per cent increase in 2022 and a 5.17 per cent increase in 2023.
The sources of the 2022 levy increase come from 1.51 per cent for local boards, city departments and capital at 1.44 per cent and 1.26 per cent for transit.
The budget comes with more than $481 million in operating expenses for the next year and nearly $501 million in 2023.
The average residential increase for property taxes is set to raise $153 a year, or $13 per month for 2022.
Deputy chief administrative officer Trevor Lee said the developed budget is a fully integrated budget for 2022 and 2023.
The budget meeting consisted of 47 motions, which is more than in previous years.
The budget passed 8-5 with mayor Cam Guthrie among those who voted against the budget.
Downtown parking rates will be increasing by 48 cents per hour, while a motion to implement a parking rate for Sundays was defeated.
In addition, councillors flip-flopped on a decision to slash the Guelph Library budget by $100,000, with a late motion introduced to revert the cut by adding $99,999 into the library board budget, resulting in the Guelph Public library seeing a $1 budget reduction.
An affordable transit pilot project was approved which will see permitted applicants see fare reductions of up to 95 per cent.
The budget also includes money set aside for roads and repairs, including the baker street parking lot.
A last-minute motion put forward by Coun. Mike Salisbury proposed a one per cent reduction to the police services budget in the amount of $483,000.
Coun. Bob Bell said the significant increases to the police services budget is not merited, and he does support the motion.
The motion failed.
Following the amendments to the budget being voted on, Bell asked council to pause and reflect on the passing of the motion due to the operating costs within the budget.
“I think we should think about this over Christmas and I think it should get back, and that will give us an opportunity to hear form our constituents and see if they want us to do this because I don't think they they are really prepared for it," said Bell.
He forwarded a deferral motion that asked for the budget approval be moved to late February and the two special meetings of council be scheduled for January 2022 to discuss capital and operating with a second meeting scheduled for mid-February and a final meeting near the end of February.
“I just think that we need to think about this,” said coun. Bell
Coun. Christine Billings seconded the motion.
The motion failed 5-8 with Guthrie included in those who wanted to defer the passing of the budget.
Coun. June Hofland said she believes the budget truly reflects the costs of operating and building a growing city.
“We’ve approved a budget that will bring the south end a rec centre, a new library in the heart of downtown, a transit system that will be more efficient and effective, we’ve approved active transportation, trails, culture, safety updating our elderly infrastructure, addressing the needs of those who don't have a roof over their heads, supporting our hospital with millions of dollars, we're protecting the environment and lastly supporting organization within our community because we know their work is invaluable,” said Hofland.
Coun. Leanne Caron said she was not 100 per cent in favour of everything that came out of the budget as future budgets will be under more pressure.
“We’ve pushed forward a tax increase for next year in excess of five per cent and our contingency reserve is down a few million dollars, and that does concern me,” said Caron.
She added the new council next year, whoever that may be, will be under a lot of pressure.
Coun. Phil Allt said he does support the budget, regarding it in many ways as a COVID stimulus budget building for the future and reflects what is important for the community in both the short and long term.
Coun. Dominique O’Rourke said she is worried about the unwillingness to make room for transit and future climate initiatives, which will mean she will have to vote against the budget.
On the flip side, Coun. James Gordan said he supported the budget as it supports the fairness, equity, not leaving anyone behind and planning for a future with a quality of life.