City council finalizes 2.7% budget increase, approves London Convention Centre funding request
City politicians put the finishing touches on the 2019 budget, securing a $74 bump in property taxes for the average London homeowner with a house assessed at $221,000.
The 2.7 per cent increase, finalized during Tuesday’s council meeting, is separate from a three per cent increase approved for the water and wastewater treatment budget, for which the average homeowner will pay another $25.
Operating amendments, which are costs the city will continue to pay year after year, include investing $161,000 to hire a full-time psychologist and administrative support staff for London police’s Safeguard Program, $590,000 for ambulance resources, and $285,000 to subsidize a senior’s bus pass.
Councillors also put to bed any minimum wage advocate’s hope that they’d raise wages for part-time seasonal staff from $14 to $15 an hour. That decision saves the city $521,000 a year.
Approved capital costs, which are investments the city will make once, include a roofing job for the London Convention Centre and a paint job for the Covent Garden Market’s parking garage to extend the life of its concrete.
The city will also fund the first study looking at redeveloping the Masonville Transit Village.
Although it wasn’t part of the 2019 budget debate, councillors spent some time discussing a request from the London Convention Centre for $500,000 from the city’s portion of the hotel tax revenue.
Half the money generated by the hotel tax, which was implemented last fall, goes into the city’s tourism infrastructure development fund for capital projects while the other half goes to Tourism London to support bids and promotional activities.
“I absolutely agreed with what’s been said about tourism should pay for tourism, but we don’t have the tourism fund fully established yet,” argued Ward 2 Councillor Shawn Lewis.
The fund is expected to have $1.7 million by year’s end. He argued the money should come from the economic development reserve fund instead, which already has $13 million in its coffers already.
But Ward 4 Councillor Jesse Helmer said the money from tourism infrastructure reserve fund is specifically intended for projects like the second-floor renovations the London Convention Centre wants to spend it on.
“I think it sends a very mixed signal to people that we’ll fund $150,000 to the tent, which is tourism-related infrastructure supporting the Junos, and then not supporting something like this, which is permanent infrastructure supporting tourism.”
Late last year, council granted the Juno Host Committee’s request for $150,000 to build temporary outdoor programming space dubbed a “fan zone” around Budweiser Gardens during the week-long festivities in March.
Council voted 9-6 in favour of using the infrastructure fund for the London Convention Centre’s upgrades.
The renovations will include re-configuring the second floor and creating a signature “wow” space for high impact events inside the 25-year-old structure.
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