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December 06, 2012

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Good to see the budget didn't increase much more than the rate of inflation.

As critical as I am, nice overall job.

That said what's up with a council adding a secretive $60K to the budget?

And public art over sidewalk improvements? C'mon.

Finally, why does the city keep paying for private business facades?

Not secretive - related to staff.

The allocated monies is likely something to do with workplace accessibility due to a verified medical reasons, and by divulging something of this nature to the public, the city would be sharing personal medical information of the individual without their consent.

This is just a theory - but it is common workplace practice in line with human rights and accessibility laws.

It appears, if not for a couple of councilors who are mentioned in the blog several times, the rest would have agreed on 3.74% tax hike. It is clear who cares for tax payers money in the Hall.

Wilful blindness - spending on sidewalks vs public art should have been a no brainer. Now that it is out there council was aware that Woodlawn west is unsafe for pedestrians the first person injured has grounds for a great lawsuit.

I agree dump the downtown facade improvement. When you lease in the Stone Road mall its right in your agreement that your facade is at your expense and there is a provision that it must be redone every so many years. What I would like to see published annually is who takes advantage of this grant and then a follow-up to see if they actually did any facade improvements with it. Are there any controls on how taxpayers money is spent?

Hi
First i thought the costs of sidewalk snow
removal for the city was 500,000 not 100,000.
Second,in what other city is "public art"
more important than safety of it's citizens.
Third,more employees......are you serious.


Jerry,
Some one in the city hall had great math sense. Sidewalk snow removal costs $500K. However, if it is left to citizens, then to enforce by law would cost 400K. So they were really saving 100K. Thats where that 100K comes from. They did save 50K by not removing Christmas trees though. Isn't that great? Ask you to pay more tax to pay for those 17+ new positions they created.

If a section of sidewalk is unsafe then fix it. Don't rob already allocated and unrelated funds to do it...just add it to the budget and fix it.
I'd like to know what councillor suggested the fund-swap because it just needlessly created an art-vs-safety false dichotomy.
If all reserve funds are free to be pillaged then we will have lost all control of strategic planning.
The pandering and grandstanding that went on last night shows what happens when our so-called leaders operate based on re-electability rather than sound stewardship of the city. Maybe we need term limits.

Too much city staff already at overpaid wages. Jim Furfaro's suggestion is the greatest solution I have heard yet, in reducing expenditures. Sidewalk plowing is useless in residential areas, as it is done four days after it snows. Get rid of it.

Steve, it wasn't really like that. There is a safety issue along Woodlawn Road because it is missing sidewalks and apparently the City has been warned about that. There is also a connectivity issue for people "being deposited at the side of the road" when they get off of the bus. It was a sensible approach to a situation where the City is exposed. It was one of the more "real" exchanges that was I think kicked off with comments from Coun. Bell. There was genuine frustration, not grandstanding and I think everyone could see that, and that led to some councillors willing to meet each other part way in starting on a solution to address it.

Part of calling things out is not calling things out when it isn't merited.

One of McGuinty's only sane programs was to tie in any increase in density with a 1% "contribution" by the developer to public art (possibly on-site?) For some unknown reason council waived this when approving the 18 story monolith on MacDonnell. That was $400,000 that should have or could have gone to someone local, without a penny being paid by the taxpayers. I really wonder if council and/or staff are that stupid, or if money is changing hands. If not, it should be.

If your looking for transparency and clarity from Her Royal Highness and Court look no further then last night's meeting. Their not even pretending to represent the people who live in their wards anymore.

This is a private party Guelph taxpayer and your not invited, so just give us some more money and shut the hell up. When we've pissed that away we'll be back for more and there's not a dammed thing you can do about it.

They might as well hold all council meetings at the Cutten Club, you'll only find people who matter there.

A hiring freeze would have been a nice gesture to show the public that Council was serious about reining in the main costs. Furfaro kinda dropped the ball on that by focusing on the 'retirees' which is fine, but was complicated by the different situations that could lead to. They will look into it apparently, however where that goes no one knows.

HI Natwork
My understanding was if the city cleaned the
sidewalk it costs 500,000.If the citizens of
Guelph did the sidewalk in front of their
homes it would save the city 400,000.The
100,000 costs would be the costs to the city
to clean the side walk in front of city owned
buildings.
The enforcement part is crap,will never happen.
First of all the enforcement officer are too busy downtown taging people who over extend their free parking stays.
And drinking coffee in their cars just waiting for Maggie to call.
The tree removal part is a business opportunity for somebody out there with a pick up truck(or trailer).Think about it
all those trees flying around will just crush
all those enviromentalist out there and i am sure if you went to city hall and talked to
miss maggie or ms farbridge they would just throw money at you to get rid of those trees
giving them black eyes.
(How could they stand in front of all those
save the earth groups and say we are earth friendly and have trees flying around our city)The shame of it all.

17.68 positions for an average of over $85000 per year....that will grow to over $95000 per year in 6 years. Time to get serious and get rid of the spend thrifts on clown council and their advisors.

Al,
I see where you're going, but a slight clarification: The costs associated with the FTE includes all the one-time costs of adding a person (desk, phone, equipment, etc) so the salary line is somewhat lower than the 2013 cost.
That's why in my story I was careful to indicate the cost in 2013 rather than present that as the salary for the position. That said, it's true once you add a position you're carrying the costs of that position every year going forward since as we all know the city never cuts staff.

Thanks Jerry for clarifying. Either way, I don't see any good here. It is time for a change at the top of the City Hall. I wishing for a clear choice next time around when they come back asking for our vote, and vote we will.

This is what you get When you have a mayor and council that has survived on grants from other levels of government to fund essential public works projects.
They are addicted to spending.
With the financial problems at the provincial level,Liz Scandals will have trouble getting free money for this town to operate.
Operating Guelph like the U of G is coming to a end
Major funding cuts to municipalities and universities are coming.
If you think this year is bad wait untill next year when one of Guelph's
biggest source of free money is not elected.(ie.Scandals)

Hey Scott, in your article you said "Kovach’s motion pushed the tax increase down to 2.97 per cent. On the average home, valued at $292,000, that means a $97 annual increase in property taxes. "
Based on the numbers posted on the city web site, I calculated about $88 what mill rate did you use?
Of course, even that number is wrong since it assumes the number of taxpayers doesn't change year over year, which we know isn't the case. Total tax increase and taxpayer average tax increase aren't the same thing.

Hi guys,
Is there a place we can go and see what kind of 17+ new jobs are Okayed by council and what is the salary? Just to get an idea.

Steve,
I didn't use a mill rate, which as you know won't be set for a few months. Those figures were provided by city staff at the end of the meeting.

From your column, Scott -- "Guthrie unsuccessfully urged his colleagues to remove the communications person — and the $85,000 price tag in 2013 — from the budget.

Bob Bell was on side with that.

'I think generally we’re trying to say too much and make too many comments,” Bell said. 'We should do good things and say very little.'"

***

Perhaps staff will be willing to take another look at that $85K, now that they have to find $500K in efficiencies -- setting priorities, making management decisions (i.e., making choices), deciding what is actually necessary for the City to be spending time and money on.

That $85K would be a good start into finding the $500K.

Councillor Kovach's effiency motion for staff to find savings of $500,000 was a noble and honest effort on her behalf to hold the tax rate at the 3.00% level.However,in the context of what has been going on at City Hall, it is a complete joke.
In the past 3 years according to audited financial statements,expenditures have exceeded the budget by $14.7 million;$6.8million in 2011:$2.3 million in 2010 and $5.6 million in 2009.

It was great to see the Mayor introduce the concept of an efficency target in her opening address. Glad Kovach was engaged enough to try and own this.

Does Staff have to provide detailed information on what these efficiencies are or can they say, "I just waved my magic wand and presto chango expenditures just disappeared from my budget"?

I am all for efficiencies but really this City, like many others, has a lot of waste and duplication that should be looked at first before any budget or staffing increases are sought. For example, how much does it cost to run all the night lighting in all of the City parks where there might be a skating rink this winter. Right now in Waverley Park 4 big halogen lights come every evening at dark and go off at 11 pm. This happened all last winter as well and not once did anyone even attempt to build an ice rink. THe weather was never there for it and certainly isn't right now. So get real City Hall, change the computer program and save some budget money. THe cancel the xmas tree program and I am sure that money could be found by controlling the electricity waste going on right now.

City Hall has overspent their budget for the last 5 years, what makes anyone believe they will even attempt to find efficiencies this year.

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Joanne

Joanne Shuttleworth is the newsroom lead in municipal affairs coverage for the Guelph Mercury. She is a former Guelph YWCA Woman of Distinction honouree and a past winner of an Ontario Newspapers Award for her work as an editor. You can reach her at jshuttleworth@guelphmercury.com

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  • Chris Herhalt
    covers municipal affairs and politics for the Guelph Mercury. Prior to joining the Mercury he worked at The Record of Waterloo Region and at The Canadian Press. He can be reached at cherhalt@guelphmercury.com