It appears that Hamilton’s 2021 residential tax increase will land at 2.1 per cent.
City politicians have voted to forward this year’s operating budget to a March 31 meeting of council for final approval.
General manager of finance Mike Zegarac projects that the city will end the current fiscal year with a projected surplus of almost $49 million, largely because of COVID-19 relief from upper levels of government.
There was discussion during Wednesday’s general issues committee meeting of potentially using a portion of that surplus to further reduce this year’s tax increase.
But Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger says council has opted to hold that money in reserve, as something of a pandemic security blanket, in the event that it’s needed for future pandemic-related costs.
He also stresses that this is a “predominantly COVID-related surplus that should be used be utilized for offsetting COVID-related expenses.”
Zegarac’s presentation to councillors indicates that Hamilton has received $170 million in COVID-19-related funding from the federal and provincial governments, since the start of the pandemic.
That includes $52 million towards transit and $45 million to address housing issues.
“We’re often critical when they’re not there to assist us,” said Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins. “We need to highlight those instances where they have been there for Hamilton.”
Collins stresses that “they’ve certainly done that over the past year during very difficult times.”