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Financial pressures threaten County's 10-year social service plan

Social services is already asking for 10 per cent more from county municipalities and 38 per cent more from the City of Guelph this year

WELLINGTON ‒ Without sustainable provincial funding, some County councillors believe the social services committee may need to rethink its 10-year plan to avoid turning a double-digit tax levy increase proposed for 2024 into an unwanted yearly tradition.

Presented during the social services committee meeting Wednesday afternoon, the preliminary 2024-2033 Ten-Year Plan for Social Services anticipates a tax levy increase of approximately 9.8 per cent for the County and 38 per cent for Guelph in 2024 to accommodate additional municipal contributions to affordable housing pressures as well as rising costs for both materials and labour. 

"We're looking at significant cost increases for 2024 and I don't think that's a surprise to any of long as this remains a bump," said Warden Andy Lennox, during the meeting. "I look at things like the population growth that's coming to our area, I see housing costs and I'm very concerned about these costs continuing to escalate."

But social services administrator Luisa Artuso said current projections show 2025 will "definitely" include additional increases in demands and costs. 

"2023 really showed us for the first time the impacts of the pandemic and the rising costs and it was a significant change," said Artuso. "(The province) needs to start increasing our funding allocation and providing us with sustainable funding lines that we can rely on not these three or one-year commitments." 

According to the report, capital spending on County-owned social housing units will total $57.3 million over the 10-year forecast.

Beyond 2026 through 2033, the capital budget will increase by an average of $163,000 to provide staff with a "predictable and stable level of funding to address aging facilities and increasing costs."

"Whether you're a right-wing lunatic, a left-wing lunatic, or just a lunatic, I think the actual message is we do need more funding from the province," said Coun. Jeff Duncan. "(We need to know) is this a bump in the road or a new reality and if this is a new reality, we need to rethink."

The preliminary 10-year plan will be considered by the Administration, Finance and Human Resources Committee later this month.

The forecast will be updated when the budget is approved early in the new year.

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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