Despite some varying opinions on process, I’d like to focus first and foremost on the positives stemming from the 2016 Capital and Operating Budget deliberations.
Capital Budget (unanimously approved 13-0)
One of the highlights for me in this years capital budget is the committment to funding the construction of a new downtown parking structure in 2016. This investment is aimed at moving our downtown forward and seeks to alleviate parking impediments to residents looking to work/shop/dine downtown. In addition there are also funding commitments in 2016 to address much needed buried and surface infrastructure upgrades in the St. Patrick’s Ward area (see more here) as well as new funding allocations to improving accessibility on our city streets and intersections ($175,000 committed to installing accessibility ramps).
Finally, one of the most significant investments being made in 2016 will be approximately $5.8M (9.5% of total capital budget) to Guelph Transit. These investments include a computer-aided vehicle dispatch system, transit terminal upgrades at the VIA Station, bus shelter purchases, vehicle and equipment replacements, farebox upgrades to improve machine generated transfers, and finally bus stop accessibility upgrades in order to meet the province’s accessibility standards (AODA). I highlight these investments because I believe it is important to champion the many improvements coming to Guelph Transit in 2016 and I encourage everyone to support our local service.
Operating Budget (Passed 7/6)
In regards to the operating budget, I believe the 7/6 vote accurately reflects the way in which this budget was built (I voted against the budget). It took two days and over 12 hours but in the end a 2.99% increase will now be levied across the city in 2016. Much will be made about how this budget was landed on however, I’m choosing instead to focus on two positive outcomes that I believe will serve Guelph well in the future. The first is the addition of an asset management office within city hall. I believe this addition (in conjunction with other internal reviews) is a fundamental piece to addressing the city’s growing infrastructure deficit. As I’ve stated before, when it comes to replacing infrastructure, simply raising more revenue through taxes, user fees and/or special levies will not adequately address the problem. First and foremost the city needs a plan and (to this end) I look forward to working collaboratively with the new asset manager and technical analyst on this when they arrive in 2016.
Secondly, the approved budget will also finally see staff begin to address the condition of our city sidewalks in 2016. Specifically, more than $400,000 will be added to the operating budget in 2016 to address this issue. Staff have informed us that it may take up to three years to address the existing backlog however, with funding now included in the base operating budget, sidewalks will have reliable, annual funding to address their condition moving forward.
As always if you have any questions/concerns about the 2016 Budget, please do not hesitate to contact me. I’d love to hear from you.
Ward 1 City Councilor