After a marathon session lasting more than 11 hours, Kitchener city council approved its budget for 2014 on Thursday. Here’s some of the key takeaways on how it will affect you and the services you receive from the city.
1. Property tax rate increase of 0.99 per cent
City staff had initially proposed a tax rate increase of 1.17 per cent. However, council decided to implement a number of saving measures which brought it down to 0.99 per cent. The total net levy is $104,450,374.
For the average household, the city portion of the annual property tax rate will go up by $10.
“I have to say we ended up pretty much exactly where I personally wanted to be and where I think most residents wanted us to be, and that is under the rate of inflation,” said Coun. Scott Davey, the finance committee chair.
2. Water, stormwater, sewer rates up
Council approved an increase in water rates of 3.5 per cent, an increase in sewer rates of 5 per cent and an increase in stormwater rates of 3 per cent. Funds collected from the stormwater levy will be going to fund infrastructure projects in the city.
3. Four new staff for bylaw enforcement and IT
The city will be adding two new staff to its bylaw enforcement department to address the growing amount of calls for service from the public.
“We’ve seen incredible growth in terms of the number of issues our bylaw staff have been dealing with, without the appropriate increases in staff over the past number of years ” said Coun. Berry Vrbanovic. “This is an area that we regularly hear from residents with concerns and we needed to address it this year.”
It will also be adding two new staff to better adapt to mobile computing in order to improve customer service and operational efficiency within the city.
3. $136K for deficit reduction
For the past four years, at the start of the budget process, the City of Kitchener has been faced with a deficit, which then has to be whittled down to zero before the next fiscal year gets underway. Council voted to allocate $136,000 toward reducing the three areas where deficits come up the most: electricity costs in city owned facilities, operations and bylaw enforcement fine revenues.
“We’ve had a chronic deficit in bylaw, so the belief is they will be able to recover extra funds to the tune of about $40,000,” said Davey.
4. Close to $500K will go to city library system
City staff had recommended that the Kitchener Public Library receive $497,700 in the budget, which council approved in full. The Central Library construction project was initially expected to be finished last year, but is now set only to be wrapped up in May. The money allocated in the 2014 budget to the library system will help address costs associated with the delay.
5. Councillor allocations down, recreation subsidy up
Coun. Frank Etherington brought forward two motions to be considered in the 2014 budget, both of which passed.
One was to reduce the amount per term councillors can claim for home office expenses such as laptops and telephones to $2,500 from $3,129.55.
The second was to add $10,000 to Kitchener’s Leisure Access Card program, which provides subsidies for seniors, children, single mothers and other adults who cannot afford the city’s recreational programs.
In 2013, about 3,460 seniors, children and adults used the program. In 2012, the number was 3,015.