Draft Budget 2016 keeps taxes affordable and protects front-line services

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Ottawa City Council tabled a balanced draft budget today, which would allow the City of Ottawa to keep life affordable for families and invest in community priorities.

 

The draft budget proposes to continue record investments in active transportation, affordable housing and economic development. As City Council directed in October, the draft budget also caps the residential property tax change at 2 per cent and provides reasonable cost-saving measures that do not affect front-line services.

 

“Residents and businesses will see their priorities reflected in this draft budget, which will move us forward on major city-building projects while ensuring we continue living within our means,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “The draft budget proposes several common-sense measures to save money and keep taxes affordable.”

 

The proposed tax revenue increase is 1.75 per cent for City and Police services, which translates to a 2 per cent increase for a residential property. It also includes a 2.5 per cent increase for Transit which translates to a 2.85 per cent increase on the transit levy of a residential property, as a result of provincial legislation regarding the commercial tax ratio. This represents an increase of approximately $72 per year for an urban home assessed at $375,300 and $56 per year for a rural home assessed at $375,300.

 

Budget 2016 delivers on commitments to create a more affordable, caring, sustainable and prosperous city that will benefit every community. For example, the draft budget proposes maintaining the $110.4-million four-year commitment to the Term of Council priorities, which were approved in July 2015. City-wide highlights for 2016 include:

 

An Affordable City

  • Limiting the proposed tax revenue increase for City and Police to 1.75 per cent, translating to a 2 per cent increase for a residential property
  • Limiting the proposed transit levy to 2.5 per cent, resulting in a 2.85 per cent increase on the transit share of the residential tax bill
  • Maintaining the Rate-Supported Water and Sewer Charge increase at 6 per cent, as approved in the latest Long Range Financial Plan, and completing a water-rate review to consider options for future water and sewer rates
  • Freezing garbage fees for the fourth consecutive year

 

A Caring City

  • Continuing to invest in affordable housing and homelessness programs with a further $2-million increase in funding
  • Continuing a $50,000 increase to low-income families seeking access to recreation programs
  • Increasing the funding for community resource and health centres by 1.5 per cent to $11.2 million
  • Continuing to fund crime prevention and a gang exit strategy, and adding 25 new police officers
  • Strategically investing in recreation infrastructure and supporting recreation programming
  • Investing in social supports through community funding

 

A Sustainable City

  • Allocating $200,000 to maintain our 40-kilometre winter cycling network
  • Delivering new cycling infrastructure including bike lanes on Mackenzie Avenue, breaking ground on the first phase of the O’Connor Street bike lane, and opening the $9.2 million Somerset-Donald pedestrian and cycling bridge
  • Maintaining the increased funding of $125,000 for tree planting
  • Renewing investment in the Municipal Green Fleet
  • Breaking ground on the combined sewage and storage tunnel – the largest project of the Ottawa River Action Plan
  • Converting street lights across the city to more-efficient LED technology

 

A Prosperous City

  • Continuing Stage 1 of the O-Train Confederation Line light rail transit project as well as investing $10 million in renewing other transit infrastructure such as resurfacing and extending sections of the Transitway
  • Developing an Arts Precinct in downtown Ottawa that includes the expansion of the Ottawa Art Gallery, redevelopment of Arts Court and new streetscaping on Rideau Street
  • Investing in new transportation infrastructure to accommodate growing neighbourhoods to the west, south and east of Ottawa
  • Rehabilitating parks and recreation facilities, including $3.5 million to upgrade recreation centres, develop new splash pads and install new park play equipment

 

In October, City Council directed staff to pursue multi-year efficiency measures to address structural financial challenges, such as winter maintenance costs, arbitrated wage settlements and increased insurance costs. Measures proposed for 2016 include:

 

  • Reviewing planned purchases of trucks and other fleet vehicles
  • Contracting out iron works
  • Reducing use of consultants for internal surveys and online forms
  • Reducing paid advertising, media monitoring services, printing and postage
  • Converting streetlights to more-efficient LED technology
  • Reducing overtime and on-call staff time
  • Reviewing municipally owned land and properties

 

“Staff has been able to begin to alleviate financial pressures through a number of smart efficiencies,” said City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick. “By adopting a multi-year budget approach, the City will be better able to address longer term financial challenges, ultimately putting the City in a stronger financial position by the end of the current Term of Council.”

 

The City of Ottawa has evolved its budget process to include greater public engagement throughout the year, providing opportunities for residents to get involved and to provide input before the draft budget was developed. While the regional public consultations that used to take place following tabling of the draft budget have already occurred, there are still opportunities for residents to offer their thoughts on the 2016 draft budget.

 

To provide feedback on the draft budget, residents are welcome to register as a public delegation at any of the standing committee, commission and board meetings, which will take place between Tuesday, November 17 and Monday, December 7. A full listing of these public meetings is available on ottawa.ca. Residents can also provide their input via email at budget2016@ottawa.ca, on Twitter using the #ottbudget hashtag or directly to their City Councillor or Mayor. The budget will rise to City Council for consideration on Wednesday, December 9.

 

For full information on the Draft 2016 Budget, visit ottawa.ca/budget2016.


OttawaStart Staff

feedback@ottawastart.com

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