The big picture
The city is looking to spend a total of $3.76 billion next year, about $137 million more than in 2019. The municipality’s spending will be offset by revenues totalling the same amount, according to the city.
In line with the 2020 budget directions approved in September, the proposed budget calls for a municipal tax increase of three per cent. In other words, the average property tax bill for an urban home in the city of Ottawa go up by an extra $109.
“By taking a balanced approach, Budget 2020 helps ensure Ottawa remains a safe, vibrant and affordable city for our residents for decades to come,” Mayor Jim Watson said in his budget speech. “It keeps a keen eye on the conditions that create economic opportunities and includes programs to help communities thrive.”
On Wednesday, Watson cautioned that a “new” government at the provincial level and a new minority government at the federal level could “impact areas of municipal life” and that’s why he committed to a tax goal of no more than three per cent for next year.
The City of Ottawa was in a lurch earlier this year when the provincial government announced retroactive cuts to municipal funding for public health, child care and ambulance services. The province ultimately reversed those cuts for 2019 but said it would continue with many in 2020.
Asked during a press conference whether he felt confident there would be no further surprises in the next provincial budget, Watson said he couldn’t guarantee it, but that he felt positively about recent conversations with Premier Doug Ford.
Departmental draft budgets for 2020 for will now be sent to committees and boards for review. The city has set Dec. 11 as the date for council to deliberate and adopt the 2020 budget.
After a tough year for public transit riders in Ottawa had a bumpy service transition after the launch of the Confederation Line, the 2020 draft budget has earmarked $7.5 million to improve bus service and reliability on OC Transpo routes.
Budget 2020 is also proposing to spend $43 million to replace 63 buses that have reached the end of their life cycle, and $6 million to introduce an electric bus pilot program. Nineteen regular buses would be added to the OC Transpo fleet.
The draft budget also includes a pledge to increase the annual funding for Para Transpo by $2 million, so it totals $33 million in 2020, to “accommodate increasing ridership levels.” In all, the 2020 budget represents a $9.5 million increase to annual transit spending, Watson said.
If the 2020 budget is approved, the fares for the EquiPass and Community Pass – OC Transpo’s discounted bus passes for riders living on low incomes – will be frozen at 2019 rates through next year.
In addition to those transit investments, the city is proposing spend $817 million in 2020 on the Stage 2 expansion of Ottawa’s light-rail network to the east, west and south.
Roads and Infrastructure
The municipality is proposing to throw an additional $22.5 million at maintaining and improving the city’s infrastructure next year.
The 2020 draft budget includes:
- $9.8 million for pothole repairs, a seven per cent increase from 2019
- $49 million for the renewal of Montreal Road
- $49.3 million to renew other infrastructure, including sewers, guiderails, water distribution systems, watermains and stormwater management
- $78.3 million for winter operations, a $5.6-million increase over 2019
- $4 million to develop programs that “manage the capacity of the sewer systems and reduce the risk of property flooding”
Affordable housing and long-term care
The city is repeating its $15 million investment last year into affordable housing, which was the largest on record in the city’s history.
Budget 2020 proposes $31 million to maintain funding for local housing and homelessness agencies that provide supports and services.
It’s also earmarked $24.5 million for non-profit, social services providers and $4.4 million for the city’s long-term care facilities.
Budget creates new anti-racism secretariat
Watson announced on Wednesday that Budget 2020 includes money to create an anti-racism secretariat that would “further enhance” the City of Ottawa’s work on equity and inclusion.
“The idea is to have a secretariat at the city that addresses issues of systemic racism and barriers, and stop barriers that create discriminatory situations for some of our residents,” explained Coun. Rawlson King, who was behind the push to create the unit.
The secretariat is not a special council liaison role, like in the case of council’s special liaison on affordable housing or women’s issues and gender equity, King clarified.
King said his proposal for the secretariat drew on “best practices” of the anti-black racism unit at the City of Toronto. The 2020 draft budget is giving Ottawa’s secretariat one full-time employee and a budget of $100,000 to undertake consultations, King said.
Watson, however, did announce the creation of another special liaison role on Wednesday: Orléans Coun. Matthew Luloff will be council’s new liaison on veteran and military affairs. Luloff is a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Ottawa Police Service draft budget
The budget document proposes hiring 30 new sworn officers next year – 13 of whom would form part of two new neighbourhood resource teams – and investing $4.2 million in “wellness programming,” like peer support and access to professional psychological services.
The police force is asking for a net operating budget of $319.2 million, with a police tax rate increase of three per cent.
This is a net incremental increase of $12.7 million over 2019 and the 2020 budget translates to an $18 increase to the police tax bill rate for the average Ottawa household, according to the police service.
Ottawa police, who expect to end 2019 with a $2.4 million surplus, also said the 2020 budget includes cash for a permanent equity, diversity and inclusion office.
“The office will promote trust in policing and further develop an internal culture that actively promotes equity, diversity and inclusion,” the release said.