Council approves budget with no tax increase
For the sixth consecutive year Windsor city council has approved a budget with no increase in taxes.
It was also approved earlier than usual.
Treasurer Onorio Colucci said that in the past it's usually been March when the budget is dealt with. He said there are reasons for and benefits to approving it earlier.
"Once you have a budget you can plan for your whole year. If a budget isn't approved [by] April then the first couple months you're going on the basis of the previous year and any savings you're trying to achieve you have to achieve over nine or 10 months as opposed to the whole year," he said.
The budget, approved in principal, includes a lease agreement to allow 300 Public Works Canada employees to move into a new city hall.
Federal approval must still be given.
Council had already set aside $35 million for the project. Now, it has approved another $12 million to pay for the additional floors for the federal employees.
The city would recover the money through the lease agreement.
Mayor Eddie Francis says if everything falls into place, the city would assume ownership of the Paul Martin federal building on Ouellette Avenue.
In turn, that would allow the opportunity for a deal with the university, one that would see the university move its law school into the Paul Martin Building.
"Whenever there's a way to bring more students to the downtown, the city's prepared to play a role," Francis said.
Council is setting aside $7.5 million in 2019 and a similar amount in 2020 as part of the city's share, if the law school proposal proceeds.
The university and senior levels of government would also help pay for that project.
While taxes remain frozen and money is spent on a new city hall, it will cost people more to ride the bus.
Transit Windsor fares will jump, on average, 10 per cent Jan. 1.
The price for adult, student and senior fares will rise from $2.50 to $2.75.
General manager Penny Williams said the increase will generate about $600,000 to help offset increasing costs.
"Our fuel costs have gone up over 30 per cent since the last time we've increased the fares," she said. "We are looking forward to doing this, and it's much needed if we want to build the system."
Council also approved to change Windsor's 24,000 street lights more energy-efficient LED bulbs.
City engineer Mario Sonego said the switch will take some time. It will cost the city $14 million but is expected to save the city $36 million over 15 years.
"It's taken other municipalities, for that amount of lights, a couple of years, over a two-year period," Sonego said.