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London Chamber of Commerce calls for lower tax hike in 2020-23 budget

A finalized version of the city's 2020-23 budget is set to arrive in early March. Sawyer Bogdan / 980 CFPL

The London Chamber of Commerce (LCC) is getting a head start on a public feedback session about the city’s upcoming multi-year budget.

City council, meeting as the strategic priorities and policy committee, will host a public participation meeting at city hall on Thursday, allowing Londoners to share their thoughts on the upcoming financial plan. A finalized version of the budget, which aims to cover city costs from 2020 to 2023, is due on March 2.

READ MORE: Londoners looking at potential tax increase of 3.2-4.5 per cent

In a letter sent to council ahead of Thursday’s meeting, the LCC calls for a more conservative annual tax hike than what’s been projected.

The latest draft budget from city staff estimates an average annual tax hike between 3.2 per cent and 4.5 per cent, but the LCC recommend an increase of no more than 2.8 per cent.

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“The chamber recognizes the financial pressures that the city will be facing given the increased downloading from the province,” LCC CEO Gerry Macartney writes in the letter.

Macartney adds that a tax increase formula that accounts for population growth and inflation should fall in the two to three per cent range.

“A tax levy increase beyond this range, such as the four per cent increase presently being discussed, is incompatible with the chamber’s long-standing formula and [places] an unnecessary economic burden on our members and the city’s taxpayers,” Macartney writes.

READ MORE: Proposal in 2020-23 draft budget could bring new city hall to London

One suggestion from the LCC recommends the city reconsider a plan to reduce speed limits in parts of London.

Macartney’s letter cites a report from the London Transit Commission (LTC) that identifies the plan as a multimillion-dollar endeavour.

The report states that accommodating the reduced speed limits could the cost the LTC $8.2 million in schedule rewrites and additional expansion buses.

The LCC also suggests the city examine its golf courses and other recreational holdings in order to see how to best profit from them, whether by selling the assets or repurposing them.

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READ MORE: London 2020-23 budget talks resume at city hall

Other letters sent to city hall ahead of Thursday’s meeting call for an increased budgetary focus on housing and homelessness in London, along with cycling infrastructure.

A letter from local accessibility advocate Gerry LaHay asks council to prioritize sidewalk clearing and maintenance. Meanwhile, a pair of letters from Ward 1 Coun. Michael Van Holst ask council to consider imposing more fees on more city services, along with implementing a strategy for marketing carbon offsets and acquiring contributions to green projects.

All Londoners are welcome to attend Thursday’s meeting at city hall. Council will gather at 3 p.m. with the public participation meeting starting at 4 p.m.

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