The cost of servicing a growing municipality are an ongoing challenge. Fuel, labour, asphalt, commodoties, vehicles, services -- all the pieces needed to keep our city operting -- are rising for all sectors across the country. Many people say we should "run the city like a business" or we must "live within our means" when they see their taxes rising. In a business, the bottom line is profit for the shareholder. There are four ways to control costs to keep the shareholder happy: a) lower the cost of production of the product/service, b) increase the price of the product/service to the customer, and c) operate more efficiently.
This kind of business analogy is impossible for a city, because we provide services that people depend on evey day -- providing clean water, social services and police, fire and ambulance services, transit, plowing snow, traffic signals, maintaining parks and trails, and more. Most of what we do are regulated by the Province. We can't cut essential services (nor would we want to). We also don't control the cost of fuel, asphalt, aggregate, machinery, etc. We could increase user fees and the price of providing services (ie. taxes) to the end user, but there is a limit to how much our community can absorb and remain affordable.
So this leaves us focusing our energy on operating more efficiently. This is my priority as a councillor. Are we delivering services to our community in the most efficient way? What resources are we using? Are there best practices out there that we should be implementing? Can we change our fuel source to renewables? What is the long-term benefit and life cycle of a new piece equipment? How can our citizens participate in making our city more efficient to operate?
This approach is working. I have supported programs that have saved our city millions of dollars - such as energy retrofits of city buildings, water conservation programs, new wastewater technology, solid waste management innovations and new technology to track our infrastructure asset life cycles. These decisions are often invisble, but they contribute to lowering the city budget and keeping our city affordable. Guelph today has a AA+ credit rating, and detached residential taxes fall into the "mid-range" when compared to other cities of the same size.
To see a breakdown of where your taxes go and how they are calculated, here is a link with facts, figures and helpful graphs.
To see how we compare, check out the 2017 BMA study of Ontario municipalities.