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City of Ottawa tables 2024 budget, invests in public transit and housing priorities

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe takes part in a new conference in Ottawa on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. The city's draft budget for 2024 includes a maximum 2.5 per cent property tax hike and $4.6-billion operational portfolio. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — The City of Ottawa released its 2024 draft budget Wednesday, a proposed $4.6-billion operational portfolio that keeps property tax increases capped at 2.5 per cent for the second year in a row.

If approved, the budget would allow Mayor Mark Sutcliffe to say he kept his campaign promise to keep rate hikes steady during his first two years in office, despite critics who insist the city needs to keep up with inflation.

But Sutcliffe and other councillors who support the limit argue that’s also true for taxpayers and homeowners themselves — and that a sudden spike in their tax bills would only make things worse.

“We have all heard from residents that they are struggling with rising costs and worried about the future of our economy,” Sutcliffe said Wednesday. “They don’t want to see us add to their burden with big tax increases.”

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The city estimates property taxes will make up about 47 per cent of its total revenue in 2024.

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The proposed budget also includes $31 million more for public transit and a $21.8-million long-term investment in affordable housing.

Both are pressing issues: OC Transpo is projecting a $35-million fare revenue shortfall in 2024, while the city has only issued 30 per cent of the building permits it was supposed to during the first half of this year.

To allow the city to provide relief for its ongoing affordability and social sustainability “crises,” its government partners have to do their part, Sutcliffe said.

To build more affordable housing, maintain a well-funded public transit system and help those most in need, “we must have more help from our federal and provincial partners,” he said.

That’s especially true given the growing number of people who are arriving in Ottawa in search of asylum, he added.

“There simply is no other way.”

About 20 per cent of the city’s funding for 2024 will come from other levels of government, city officials say.

Along with its operational budget, $1.24 billion is slated to go toward a reserve fund to help cover the cost of long-term investments in areas like infrastructure and transportation.

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After public consultations, council will vote Dec. 6 on whether to approve the spending plan.

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