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Ottawa’s draft city budget has 3 per cent tax increase amid provincial belt-tightening

The City of Ottawa tabled its draft capital budget for 2019 at city council on Wednesday.
The City of Ottawa tabled its draft capital budget for 2019 at city council on Wednesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

The City of Ottawa tabled its draft budget for 2019 and the proposed budget has residents in the city paying an additional three per cent in property taxes.

Barring any drastic changes, this means property owners in the city can expect to pay $113 more per year for urban properties and $93 for rural.

Those who have a water bill in the city can expect a $36 increase on average to their water bills and those who ride transit will have to pay 2.5 per cent more come July, an increase of $3 per month.

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According to Mayor Jim Watson, the three per cent increase is largely a consequence of a belt-tightening provincial government of which a portion of the funds of the City come from.

“Keeping taxes low and the city affordable has been a priority of mine over the past two mandates,” said Watson. “I’m proud to have worked with council to deliver on our commitments to taxpayers. The new provincial government will introduce its budget in spring 2019. Now, this budget will most likely bring change as we’ve already heard messages of fiscal restraint.”

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“It is clear that we need to be prepared for that change.”

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The City currently sits at a $50-million infrastructure deficit, which is the amount of money the City needs to pay to fix its properties versus the amount it actually pays. According to the City, this issue was first outlined in the 10-year plan introduced in 2014 with the plan to eliminate it by 2024.

According to the draft budget, the three per cent tax increase is to add an additional $22 million to the City’s expenditures and is broken down as follows:

  • Housing Capital $6.5 million
  • Winter Operations $1.5 million
  • Long Term Care Support Staff $1.2 million
  • Additional Paramedics $1.1 million
  • Solid Waste Household Growth $700,000
  • Traffic services, red light camera, parks $1.2 million
  • Police Services $6.2 million
  • Growth in the asset base as per the long-range financial plan $1.0 million
  • Transit $2.1 million

READ MORE: Kingston city council approves tax increase in 2019 budget deliberations

Ottawa Police Service

The Ottawa police budget was also tabled at the meeting and the service is also asking for an increase of three per cent or $12.2 million.

In order to meet the needs of the service, City staff have allocated $4.8 million from the tax stabilization revenue — essentially a reserve used to offset large needs from City departments — in order to lower the initial ask of a 5.1 per cent increase.

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According to the budget, the money will be used to offset the hiring of 30 additional officers promised by the City in the spring.

The projected total operational cost of the Ottawa Police Service for 2019 is $37.2 million.

READ MORE: Kitchener council approves 2019 budget, property taxes hiked 2.25 per cent

Affordable housing

According to the budget, the City will be investing what it says is the most it ever has into affordable housing projects in the city, $15 million.

According to the City, the investment is in addition to the $111 million that the City also provides.

As the federal and provincial budgets have not been finalized, the amount of funds that will be provided by other levels of government has not been confirmed.

If the projected amount is received, the City says that it could provide approval of 250 new units of affordable housing in 2019.

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Road infrastructure

The draft budget proposes adding $9.8 million more to the already $340 million for infrastructure renewal projects in the city.

This includes:

  • $49 million to resurface and upgrade roads
  • $42.7 million to upgrade rural infrastructure, including $12 million to repair and replace culverts in rural areas
  • $20.4 million to renew City bridges
  • $9 million for the pothole and minor asphalt base budget
  • $8.1 million to improve transit infrastructure
  • $2.9 million to renew sidewalks and pathways
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Parks, long-term care and winter operations were also covered in the budget. In total, operations in 2019 are going to cost the City of Ottawa $3.6 billion, an approximate increase of $180 million from 2018.

A graphic showing the total planned expenditures for the city of Ottawa for 2019.
A graphic showing the total planned expenditures for the city of Ottawa for 2019. City of Ottawa