Ottawa

Council OK's 3% tax increase for 2019

Ottawa city council has unanimously approved the 2019 budget, boosting property taxes by three per cent, or an extra $113 for the average household.

Look for an extra $113 on you tax bill

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson poses with the draft budget tabled last month. The final 2019 budget, passed Wednesday, contained few changes. (Joanne Chianello/CBC)

Ottawa city council has unanimously approved the 2019 budget, boosting property taxes by three per cent, or an extra $113 for the average household.

Despite four weeks of discussions at every city board and committee, the final budget looked pretty much identical to the draft tabled Feb. 6, with $3.6 billion spent on operations and $767 million on capital works.

One addition Wednesday was an extra $60,000 to create an annual inventory of the city's greenhouse gas emissions, replacing an audit carried out just once every four years.

Coun. Theresa Kavanagh also found $81,000 to keep the OC Transpo EquiPass, Access Pass and community discount at 2018 fare levels instead of rising by 2.5 per cent in July.

While passage of the budget would normally take centre stage, Wednesday's council meeting was dominated by the $4.66-billion Stage 2 LRT project, which councillors approved by a vote of 19-3

Police meet 3% cap

The only difficult deliberations during this budget process related to spending by the Ottawa Police Service. Its board was looking to close a gap of more than $5 million in 2019 and hire 30 new officers.

After first being told by staff that city reserves would close that gap, the mayor sent them back to the drawing board to find $2.4 million.

In the end, police met the mayor's three per cent tax increase target by raising fees it charges for officers on paid duty at private and city events, by cutting back on training and travel, and by capping its overtime budget.

Advocates pushing for a boost to affordable housing units had received an early surprise when the mayor announced $15 million for new units at the outset of the budget process.

The transit portion of the budget includes $5 million for extra bus service in areas that need it, but those route changes won't come until after light rail finally opens — something councillors learned earlier this week won't happen until later this spring.

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