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Guelph City Council approves budget, reduces transit

Yesterday, Tuesday, December 15, Guelph City Council approved the City’s 2010 tax-supported operating and capital budget at $196,630,308, a 3.66 percent increase over 2009. When the City finalizes its property tax rate early in 2010, the impact on an average household in Guelph assessed at $258,000 will be about $102.

The City was facing a revenue shortfall of $8.1 million as City Council began reviewing the 2010 operating budget earlier this month. With the shortfall, the City would have had to increase taxes by 9.2 per cent more than 2009 to maintain current level of City services

In November, City staff presented the budget to City Council and identified a number of potential reductions that would lower the impact on Guelph taxpayers.

For transit passengers, this means that, in 2010, Guelph Transit is:

  • increasing fares by seven percent, starting Monday, February 1;
  • eliminating all service on statutory holidays;
  • decreasing the hours of operation in June, July and August;
  • revising fares for elementary, secondary, university and college students;
  • looking for external agencies to provide “alternate” transit services (that means: “accessible” or “mobility” transit).

On the other hand, the City continues to financially support building a new downtown transit terminal and continuing its long-term strategy to improve the transit system in Guelph.

Council directed staff to continue clearing sidewalks in the winter 2010 and to offer free two-hour on-street parking downtown. Accordingly, Council also directed the City’s operations department to find further operational efficiencies to offset the cost of maintaining these services. This meant, among other items, increasing transit fares and canceling holiday transit services.

City Councillors and staff will take the equivalent of five unpaid days off next year and the City is eliminating about twenty-nine full time positions, saving more than $2 million next year.

The global economic downturn largely caused the revenue shortfall: interest rates were at historically low levels and impacted the City’s investment income; markets for recycled commodities were weakened, and sales of recycled paper, plastic and aluminum were well below average; and the City’s court services issued and collected fewer tickets and fines.

For transit, revenues grew more slowly than expected in the first half of the year although the number of riders increased since Guelph Transit resumed 20-minute service all day Mondays to Fridays in July 2008.