Mark and Dominique Answer Media Questions
Recently, the Guelph Mercury Tribune asked the mayor and all councillors three brief questions about their thoughts concerning the 2019 budget. Unfortunately due to a technical oversight, Mark's response never made it out of his outbox and consequently the paper was printed without his answers. Below are the answers that Mark and Dominique gave, which you can read on the Tribune's website in context with the responses from others as well.
What do you feel the city’s direction should be with this budget?
MARK: This budget, like all future municipal budgets, should be about taking care of the assets we own in a responsible and sustainable manner. This means ensuring we have sufficient funding to support our programmes and services, as well as our physical capital such as roads, pipes, and facilities. The previous term of council made a vital and progressive decision to create a dedicated levy to fund our infrastructure which, when paired with our asset management programme, will create a long-term plan for sustainable growth and prosperity. This council should not waiver from this correct and necessary path.
DOMINIQUE: From a leadership perspective, the city’s vision, strategy and metrics are not clear. This means the direction is unclear and the budget can’t serve the strategy, which is what a budget is supposed to do. Completion of the community plan must help us set that direction, to prioritize and to establish clearer targets and metrics for 2020 and beyond. Until then, this should be a “business as usual,” “build the reserves,” “meet prior commitments” and “tackle the infrastructure” budget.
Municipalities face huge issues like climate change, aging populations, automation, infrastructure, affordability and, yes, mental health and addiction. Before diving into any one of these, we would benefit from a thorough SWOT analysis and prioritization exercise.
What is missing from this budget?
MARK: This budget is quite comprehensive and includes funding for a wide range of programmes and services the city needs. There are a few items that I would have liked to have seen included (such as a lowered affordable bus pass and transit expansion into the Hanlon Creek Business Park) but budgets immediately following an election year are always more challenging to balance. I am confident that the 2020 budget will have more input from this term of council once the Community Plan and council’s shared agenda have been explored and implemented.
DOMINIQUE: In terms of process, I’d like to see more detail around targets, results, options and trade-offs. I want to avoid arbitrary budget-night decisions that have consequences we didn’t anticipate. It’s why I’ve asked a lot of questions on the budget board. I’d like to see more restraint. Leadership means saying “no” to most things so we can say “yes” to what matters most.
In the allocations, I would have liked to have seen more support for Guelph’s long-term care facility, which is a municipal responsibility. I would also have supported more funding for police services, especially traffic. I know the police services board made tough choices.
What does not need to be in this budget?
MARK: Although they would benefit the city operations, many of the proposed expansions must be examined closely to determine if they can be deferred or deleted to help keep the tax increase reasonable. This budget must focus on municipal responsibilities and risk management, and not sway into the realm of provincial or federal mandates.
DOMINIQUE: Staff did a good job realigning roles during the year and brought in a base budget of 1.88 per cent, even with wage pressures, increases in WSIB, rising cost of utilities, responsible growth in reserves, and new costs like bylaw enforcement for cannabis. Staff did monumental work on asset management and capital planning, giving us much better data on current and future costs. Where we can trim or pause may be in department growth or service expansion. We can also use in-year surplus, which is tax dollars already paid, to fund 0.5 per cent of the infrastructure levy for another year.