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Guelph's 2024 property tax hike finalized at 8.52 per cent (UPDATE)

Mayor signs off on budget, no strong mayor vetoes to come
20210420 Guelph City Hall RV
Richard Vivian/GuelphToday file photo

Property taxes in Guelph are set to rise by 8.52 per cent next year, followed by similar increases in future years, as city council formalized its first four-year budget during a special meeting on Wednesday.

“It’s basically bang-on the rate of inflation right now,” Mayor Cam Guthrie said of the portion of the budget within council’s control, which makes up a 3.96 per cent tax increase. “This has been really, really tough.”

The budget was presented in three parts – what the city controls (3.96 per cent), local boards and committees such as police and library (1.87 per cent), which council doesn’t have direct oversight of, and the financial impact of changes to provincial legislation and/or funding for services under the province’s jurisdiction (2.69 per cent).

Next year’s increase means an additional $410 in property taxes for the average household with an assessed property value of $407,000, city treasurer Tara Baker told GuelphToday.

In addition, the budget includes property tax hikes of 9.79 per cent in 2025, 8.03 per cent in 2026 and 7.33 per cent in 2027, though council will meet each year to confirm the budget and potentially make changes.

Several council members raised concern about the increases in future years, stating efforts will be made to bring down those amounts.

Council made numerous changes to the spending plan throughout its five-hour meeting on Wednesday, which started with a 9.9 per cent property tax increase for 2024. That already included numerous staff-made project deferrals and downsizing.

The largest reduction made Wednesday came courtesy of a motion to phase-in numerous new staff hires throughout the four-year plan, taking $2.4 million out of the budget for 2024, with fluctuating increases and decreases in future years.

In the same vein, council cut $257,111 from the Guelph Public Library budget. The intent, explained Coun. Dan Gibson who put both those motions forward, is to delay the hiring of new staff positions meant to support the new main library.

“I think it’s a little more manageable,” Gibson said of the impact on taxpayers. “This is just a simplistic way of saying we’re going to phase in this growth as smoothly and as manageable as possible.”

Funding for affordable housing has also been reduced to a $100,000 contribution to reserves. It was $500,000, the same amount council has put into the account in recent years.

“The city now (covers) the development charges for affordable units to a scale that is way larger than what we were funding,” said Coun. Dominique O’Rourke, who put the idea on the table for discussion, referring to the provincial government’s reduction to development charges for affordable housing projects.

At $100,000, O’Rourke explained, that allows “us to still have some seed money to help programs leverage other dollars and, if there were a project that came to council, we could still look at surplus or operating reserves” to provide funding.

That amendment was approved 7-6, with councillors Carly Klassen, Rodrigo Goller, Cathy Downer, Phil Allt, Leanne Caron and Erin Caton opposed.

Earlier in the meeting, Goller proposed upping the affordable housing contribution to $1.5 million, but that idea was defeated 10-3. Joining Goller in support were councillors Klassen and Caton.

“It’s very expensive to build housing and there is little support from other levels of government that we can rely on without local matching,” Goller said of affordable housing projects, pointing to an increase in the budget for Guelph police. “They are having more and more calls relating to poverty issues and mental health, addictions. Providing social housing is one of the main ways that we can provide prevention to this.”

Making another dent in the property tax increase was council’s decision to take the planned 2024 instalment of $750,000 to Guelph General Hospital from reserves rather than have it come from the tax levy. This is the same approach taken each of the first three years of the city’s six-year commitment (total $4.5 million).

There were some additions:

  • $43,445 each of the next two years to support physician recruitment efforts (from reserves)

  • $50,000 each year to fund at least two value for money reviews of service (from reserves)

  • $100,000 to fund a coordinated approach to service agency encampment wellness checks (from reserves)

  • $10,000 to investigate the possibility of creating a need-based program to waive penalties and pause interest fees on unpaid property taxes (from tax levy)

Before it was presented to city council on Nov. 3 with a then-10.32 per cent tax increase for 2024 alone, staff had already downsized and/or deferred nearly $694 million from the four-year spending plan. Those projects include, among other things, removing widening as part of the York Road reconstruction project, lessened downtown revitalization efforts and delayed trails and transit expansion plans.

At the start of the meeting, the draft budget sat with a 9.9 per cent property tax increase in 2024, followed by 9.38 per cent in 2025, 8.67 per cent in 2026 and 6.67 per cent in 2027.

Part of that lessened increase stems from a higher than anticipated increase in assessment values, with the rest coming via a reduced funding increase request from the County of Wellington for social services provided on the city’s behalf.

At the time the draft budget was released, it already featured a number of paused, slowed and downsized projects that had previously been approved by council. Last year, in the face of rising capital costs for a variety of city projects, council gave staff delegated authority until approval of the 2024 capital budget to re-prioritize projects.

Following Wednesday’s special budget meeting, Guthrie waived the ability given to him through strong mayor powers to veto any council-approved amendments. 

With that, the budget is now formally adopted.


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Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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