Ottawa mayor proposes tax surcharge to pay snow bill

The bountiful snowfall this winter may soon have Ottawa residents shovelling a little more cash out of their wallets — a $50 surcharge proposed by Mayor Larry O'Brien on Tuesday to help cover snow clearing costs.

The bountiful snowfall this winter may soon have Ottawa residents shovelling a little more cash out of their wallets.

On Tuesday, Mayor Larry O'Brien proposed levying a surcharge of $50 per household to help cover the "rather dramatic" increase in the city's snow clearing costs this year. That represents a tax increase of around 2 per cent for a household that pays a typical property tax bill of $2,500 a year.

The city has been buried under more than 400 centimetres of snow so far this winter, and the mayor estimates that at the current rate of snowfall, the city will end up with a snow removal bill of $88 million, or $23 million more than its annual snow clearing budget of $65 million.

"I think people will not be happy with it … but I think this is something they'll readily understand," O'Brien said. "Obviously we're going to be having that debate or that discussion at council as we go through the budget but my recommendation will clearly be pay your bills as they come in."

At least one councillor, Maria McRae, said she would prefer to wait until the end of the year before deciding whether a special levy is necessary.

Council should also consider boosting next year's snow clearing budget, she added.

Ottawa households already face a property tax increase of 4.9 per cent next year, despite O'Brien's election promise to freeze taxes for four years.