Ottawa

Council looking to draft budget with 3% tax hike

Ottawa's new city council will contemplate drafting a budget with a three per cent property tax hike at its second meeting next week — the same tax increase promised by Mayor Jim Watson during the fall municipal election.

Mirrors promise Mayor Jim Watson made during recent municipal election

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson holds the draft 2018 budget last December. The 2019 budget will be tabled later than usual due to the fall elections. (Joanne Chianello/CBC)

Latest

  • Budget guidelines were adopted by council at its meeting of Dec. 12, 2018.

Ottawa's new city council will contemplate drafting a budget with a three per cent property tax hike at its second meeting next week — the same tax increase promised by Mayor Jim Watson during the fall municipal election. 

Council is also being asked to allow the treasurer to bring forward a draft 2019 budget that includes 5.2 per cent increase in combined water and sewer rates, as set out in the city's long-range financial plan for the city's water services.

Councillors must approve a roadmap for the treasurer's office to the 2019 budget, which will be delayed this year because the new term of council only began on Dec. 1.

While the budget is usually approved before the end of the calendar year, the 2019 edition will be tabled in February 2019 and approved the following month.

Mirrors campaign promises

However, while the treasurer pounds out the numbers, the general development of the budget is led by the mayor's and city manager's offices.

So it isn't a huge surprise that the staff recommendation for the tax increase matches Watson's campaign promise.

In addition to vowing to keep tax increases to three per cent, Watson also ran on a platform to increase infrastructure spending by $8 million.

The staff report recommends slightly more — $9.8 million annually — in additional funds on improvements to roads, sidewalks, pathways, bridges and culverts.

Other agencies, such as the Ottawa Police Service, the Ottawa Public Library Board and the Ottawa Board of Health, are also being directed to prepare draft budgets that assume a three per cent tax increase.

As well, city treasury staff are assuming a 1.5 per cent increase in revenue from the growth of the city in the next year.

The budget guidelines call for a 2.5 per cent transit fare increase to come into effect in July 2019, instead of January.

Transit fare hike in July

When it was announced in September that Ottawa's $2.1-billion LRT completion date would be delayed for the second time, councillors talked about delaying a planned January 2019 transit fare increase as a small way to compensate transit users for the inconvenience.

That now appears to be the plan. The roadmap for the draft budget calls for a 2.5 per cent transit fare increase that doesn't come into effect until July 1, 2019.

The report also calls for OC Transpo to prepare a draft report based on a 3.5 per cent increase.

The next council meeting is Dec. 12.