Ottawa

Ottawa council keeps property tax hike at 4.9 per cent

New provincial money intended to build new roads and bridges will be used to fill a hole in the City of Ottawa's budget, keeping next year's property tax hike at 4.9 per cent as originally planned, city council has decided.

New provincial money intended to build new roads and bridges will be used to fill a hole in the City of Ottawa's budget, keeping next year's property tax hike at 4.9 per cent as originally planned, city council has decided.

The $14.6 million for new roads and bridges announced by the province Thursday will be used to replace money that council has shifted out of a reserve for road maintenance, said Innes ward Coun. Rainer Bloess after council's decision later that day.

"It's a little bit of shuffling the financial deck, but it's trying to accomplish what's best for taxpayers," he said.

Council made the decision after two days of discussions about how to deal with a projected budget deficit of more than $25 million brought to council's attention during a budget update by the city treasurer.

The shortfall was caused mainly by higher-than-expected snow clearing costs because of a near-record snowfall and higher fuel costs.

In addition, the city anticipated lower revenues than expected from parking meters, as council will likely decide not to extend paid parking hours to Sundays and late into the evening as planned.

In December, council approved a budget that included a 4.9 per cent property tax hike. This week, council considered hiking taxes 7.7 per cent to deal with the shortfall or imposing a special levy to cover the unexpected snow clearing costs, but eventually rejected both options.

Instead, it will rely on the province's infrastructure money, despite a statement from Ottawa Centre Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi that he would be "seriously disappointed" if the money were not spent on infrastructure and the jobs that come with infrastructure spending.

Coun. Diane Deans said the situation arose because council decided to leave the budget open until March in order to look for additional administrative savings and work them in.

"But what it turned into is an opportunity to update the numbers mid-way through," she said, adding that it was a really bad experience. "I don't think I would recommend doing that again."

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