Making sense of the dollars in Ottawa's draft budget

The City of Ottawa's 2018 draft budget, unveiled Wednesday, calls for a two per cent increase in property taxes and a number of new spending initiatives.

Take a closer look at how the city plans to spend your money in 2018

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson pledged during his budget speech Wednesday to make infrastructure spending a priority. (Joanne Chianello/CBC)

The City of Ottawa's 2018 draft budget, unveiled Wednesday, calls for a two per cent increase in property taxes and a number of new spending initiatives.

We take a look at what's being promised, what it's supposed to cost and where the money will come from.

The big picture

The city plans to spend an additional $56.5 million in 2018 — $24.4 million from the addition of new homeowners to the property tax base, and $32.1 million generated by the two cent tax increase.

The city's total operating budget will add up to more than $3.4 billion, an increase of $122.9 million. However more than a third of that increase will be offset by an extra $47.1 million in funding from the province to help implement Ontario's new child care program.

The remaining money is coming from:

  • $4.6 million in revenues from a 2.5 per cent increase in transit fares.
  • $4.4 million in user fees and revenue adjustments.

Spending priorities

Mayor Jim Watson highlighted some new spending initiatives in the budget, including:


  • The city is promising to spend an extra $12.6 million on infrastructure repairs including road, cycling and sidewalk fixes.
  • The winter maintenance fund, which pays for snow removal, will increase by $2.3 million.
  • The budget would make the $400,000 in extra spending on pothole repairs this year a permanent expenditure, and add another $200,000.

Social, transit services

  • Social services agencies will receive $675,000 — a three per cent increase — to help them cover an increase in the minimum wage for their workers.
  • The city is also proposing to increase the recreation fee subsidy to $1.1 million to assist low-income families gain access to recreation programs.
  • The introduction of the EquiFare, the new single-ride, $1.75 fare for low-income residents, to launch by June 2018. 
  • OC Transpo would start 20 new bus routes and buy 17 more double-decker buses.

Recreation, culture

  • $150,000 in additional funding for the Arts Momentum Fund, for a total of $300,000.
  • A three per cent increase to community recreation and outdoor rink grants.

However, the bulk of the city spending changes to its operating budget is simply to maintain city services for a growing city. This includes:

  • $39.2 million in compensation and benefit increases because of contract settlements.
  • $30.1 million for growth needs, including an increase in solid waste costs, higher costs for city recreation and cultural facilities, and hiring 25 new police officers and 14 new paramedics.
  • An extra $15 million for previously purchased services or contracts, due to inflation.
  • $3.6 million in debt servicing costs.

What it will cost you


The two per cent increase to property taxes, 2.5 per cent increase to transit levies and a $2 increase to garbage fees means the average residential tax bill will rise $76 a year for urban homeowners, and $62 a year for rural homeowners.

Commercial property owners will see their taxes rise by $163 from the previous year.


The transit budget is expected to increase by 2.5 per cent, and that will extend to fares.

Proposed fares set to come into effect Jan. 1, 2018, include $3.42 for a single fare (up from $3.35), $116.50 for a monthly pass (up from $113.75) and $207.50 for a U-Pass (up from $202.50).

Recreation fees

The increase in minimum wage will be felt largely in the parks and recreation department, due to the number of summer students it hires. The city budget injects some cash into parks and rec to keep most fee increases to about two per cent, but there are some exceptions. Arena rentals are going up 5.6 per cent.

The biggest fee hit? A licence for an all-night dance party is going up almost 16 per cent to $300.

Other expenses

The rate-supported 2018 draft budget, which includes water, wastewater and stormwater services, calls for increases of four per cent for water, five per cent for waste water and five per cent for storm water fees.

Final numbers to be determined

One of the challenges of understanding a budget is that sometimes what is called an increase in spending isn't an increase at all.

The city often cites proposed spending increases in relation to what was proposed in the 2017 budget, instead of what the city is actually projected to spend.

Take, for example, the amount the city's transportation department is scheduled to spend on road services.

The draft budget for 2018 calls for $105.2 million in expenses for road services, an increase of $5.5 million from the previous year's proposed expenses. But according to the city budget's own operating summaries, the actual amount spent is likely to be closer $113.9 million. So the city is actually planning to spend less — $8 million less — than they are spending this year.

Council is scheduled to vote on the budget on Dec. 13.

Regional highlights

The city also detailed the infrastructure projects, from roads to parks to recreation centres, will be coming to each region of the city. Click on the links below to see what's happening near you.

With files from Joanne Chianello, Laura Osman