By Doug Hallett
City hall figures it might have saved about $109,000 as a result of the recent Guelph Transit lockout, but it says the city bus service is on course to register a big operating shortfall this year anyway.
Not including any savings from the lockout, the city is projecting a “net unfavourable variance” of about $1.9 million for Guelph Transit, says city hall’s latest quarterly update on how it’s doing in meeting its 2014 budgets.
The transit shortfall is being blamed on a variety of factors, including overtime related to running the buses on statutory holidays, a lower than expected increase in ridership this year, and higher than expected fuel and parts costs.
Overall, the city is projecting a shortfall of close to $1.2 million this year in its tax-supported budget. The report doesn’t specify what these “mitigation strategies” aimed at saving money might be.
Even the user-pay areas of the city’s budget, which don’t draw on proceeds from property taxes and often run significant surpluses, are having trouble this year. The net projected shortfall in the user-pay budgets is $166,000.
The city’s waterworks department has already rescheduled some work and delayed hiring consultants to deal with a projected shortfall of $411,000. It is being blamed on factors such as an increase in emergency requests during the harsh winter and lower than expected water consumption this year.
The prolonged winter and the cleanup needed after the late December ice storm also took a dent out of the operating budget. The public works department is projecting a $562,000 shortfall related to winter control and forestry activities. The city has applied to the province for ice storm assistance, which could reduce the shortfall, says the report, which goes to the final meeting of the current city council on Sept. 8.
A surplus of $500,000 is projected in the city’s emergency services costs due to a new collective agreement with the Guelph Public Firefighters Association, it says.
Meanwhile, the success this year of the Guelph Storm team, which plays in the city-owned Sleeman Centre, is projected to result in a $210,000 surplus in the tourism and culture branch of the city’s operations.
This surplus is partly offset, though, by a projected $120,000 shortfall at the River Run Centre, the report says.
By Doug Hallett