Guelph’s MASSIVE 10.3% Draft TAX Increase
As Guelph faces a proposed 10.32 per cent hike in residential taxes for the upcoming year and anticipates further increases, Mayor Cam Guthrie emphasizes the critical role of community feedback in the budgeting process.
“This will certainly be the most difficult budget I’ve ever experienced,” Mayor Guthrie expressed. He is now concentrating on uniting the council members, stating, “My focus now is to really rally my council team together because we are going to need 13 heads to collectively try to figure out how we can focus on a balance of both value for the community and affordability.”
For the average household, valued at $814,000, the preliminary 2024 tax increase translates to an extra $903.84. Additionally, homeowners can expect their monthly water, wastewater, and stormwater bills to rise by $7.39 to $9.48 over the next four years.
The draft budget also proposes the addition of approximately 25 new staff roles over four years and increased support for social services via the County of Wellington, with a projected increase of $4.6 million in 2024 and an additional $1.15 million in 2025.
The budget draft was made public on Friday and is slated for formal presentation to the council next Tuesday. The council will hear public opinions on Nov. 15 and deliberate on potential amendments on Nov. 29.
Projected tax increases for the subsequent years are 9.38 per cent in 2025, 8.67 per cent in 2026, and 6.67 per cent in 2027, with the council retaining the opportunity to make yearly adjustments.
Currently, the budget does not allocate funds for the city’s 200th anniversary in 2027.
“Staff have been working on this for months,” Mayor Guthrie acknowledged. “They have done a lot of work to even get it to this point where council will now take over to consider how it meets the needs of the community.”
The draft budget delineates three categories: areas under council control with a 4.97 per cent increase, uncontrollable factors like police and library budgets with a 1.98 per cent increase, and the provincial impact local levy with a 3.38 per cent rise.
Last year, Guthrie considered detailing the provincial impact separately, calling it the PILL, but did not pursue it formally. He reintroduced the idea this year for greater taxpayer transparency.
The city is facing “tough questions” about service levels and the possibility of pausing or discontinuing projects.
“These are the natural and appropriate questions that are going to need to be asked to come to a conclusion of both value to the community for the taxes that are paid, and also that balance with affordability,” Guthrie remarked. He encourages the public to ponder, “What do you value, what services do you want maintained … are you interested in services that shouldn’t be maintained?”
The proposed improvements to Guelph Central Station, removed from the 2023 budget, are now deferred to 2028-2033, with an estimated cost of $12.5 million.
From now until Nov. 29, Guthrie says, “It’s all about engagement, all about hearing from the community.”
He is calling on residents to take part in the formal budget process and attend town hall meetings organized by ward councillors. The city is also initiating an online survey for resident feedback.
With the new strong mayor powers granted to Guelph, the mayor, not the council, will officially approve the budget. However, the mayor can veto council-approved changes within 10 days, which the council can override with a two-thirds majority vote.
The final date for this process is Dec. 25, making the 2024 to 2027 budget official on Christmas Day.
This four-year budget is Guelph’s first, following a two-year financial plan for 2022 and 2023, which underwent adjustments in the second year, a process known as budget confirmation.
The city experienced a 4.21 per cent residential property tax increase in 2022 and a subsequent 4.46 per cent rise in 2023.