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Kingston homeowners face 2.5% tax hike in proposed 2020 budget

Kingston homeowners face 2.5% tax hike in proposed 2020 budget
Kingston city councillors open the books on the 2020 budget next week with a projected property tax hike of 2.5 percent.

It looks like Kingston, Ont. homeowners will have to dig a little deeper next year to pay their property taxes to City Hall.

City councillors are set to open the 2020 budget deliberations next week with a staff recommended tax increase of 2.5 percent, which works out to an extra $90 on a typical house assessed at $319,000.

The proposed tax hike is in line with the strategic priorities set by councillors earlier this year.

“The 2020 recommended operating budget reflects council’s direction to maintain an overall tax rate increase of no more than 1.5 per cent plus 1 per cent for capital infrastructure,” according to a report by city treasurer Desiree Kennedy.

The City of Kingston’s 2020 municipal budget is worth $400 million, about $11 million higher than 2019.
The City of Kingston’s 2020 municipal budget is worth $400 million, about $11 million higher than 2019. CKWS TV

It will cost $400.3 million to run municipal programs and services next year, which is about $11 million higher than 2019 or a 2.9 percent overall spending increase, according to just-released budget documents.

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READ MORE: Kingston's 2019 budget

City finance officials say the budget does not include a decrease in current services such as snow plowing and transit, but some planned projects may be deferred to future years in order to balance the books.

Among the budget highlights:

  • Kingston Transit revenues are increasing 11 per cent or $893,000 over 2019 based on increased ridership and a planned fare increase next year
  • Revenue from the sale of blue box items is projected to be $500,000 lower due to declining market prices and China’s worldwide ban on accepting recyclable materials
  • New assessment-related growth is projected to bring an extra $3.5 million into municipal coffers

Councillors have set aside three nights — Nov. 25, 26 and 27 — to hear individual budget presentations from municipal department heads and external agencies such as police, public health, library and KEDCO before deciding whether to endorse the budget.

Kingston police are seeking a 3.8 per cent hike for their nearly $40-million crime fighting budget, mostly to pay for the hiring of 10 new front-line officers to replace officers on leave.

Kingston’s police horse ‘Murney’ could be a casualty of the 2020 budget.
Kingston’s police horse ‘Murney’ could be a casualty of the 2020 budget. CKWS TV

The police services board also made headlines over its planned $48,000 spending reduction to eliminate the mounted unit.

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READ MORE: Public petition to save Kingston police mounted unit

However, the downtown police horse patrols may not be put out to pasture just yet.

Councillors will hear an update on Mayor Bryan Paterson’s request of staff to look for ways to save the police horse.

The political discussion will also focus on approving a three-year capital budget to fix roads and parks, purchase new vehicles and equipment and renovate or construction buildings.

The capital budget of $167.5 million covers the remainder of the council term, from 2020 to 2022, with $86 million to be spent next year.

Kingston plans to spend millions next year in its never ending battle with potholes.
Kingston plans to spend millions next year in its never ending battle with potholes. CKWS TV

Capital budget project to be done next year include:

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  • $9.1 million for road reconstruction and repairs
  • $7.2 million to invest in more affordable housing units
  • $4.1 million for waterfront pathway and shoreline erosion improvements
  • $3.1 million to expand the transit fleet
  • $3.8 million to construct a fleet maintenance facility for Kingston Fire & Rescue
  • $1.8 million for pedestrian and intersection improvements

Staff say the capital budget is being funded by capital reserve funds and government grants and will not require the issuance of any new debt.

READ MORE: CAA's Worst Roads campaign

The 2020 operating and capital budgets mark the sixth straight year that council is being asked to approve a 2.5 percent property tax increase.

However, Kennedy warns it will be difficult to stick to that target in future years.

The city is projecting municipal tax increases of 2.8 per cent in 2021, 3.4 per cent in 2022 and a further 3.1 per cent in 2023.

“Staff will continue to refine department plans, prioritize initiatives, identify operational efficiencies and new revenue sources, and consider opportunities for service integration in order to address budget gaps.”