Ottawa’s draft 2022 budget proposes a three-percent tax hike and projects shortfalls tied to COVID-19 on transit and public health funding that will require support from higher levels of government or a substantial dip into the city’s reserves.
If approved as it stands, next year’s $4.14-billion operating budget would see property tax bills rise by $119 for the average urban homeowner, $91 for rural homeowners and $242 for the typical commercial landlord.
Broken down further, that urban homeowner’s property tax bill would include an extra $65 for city-wide services, $19 for policing and $35 for transit.
Annual water bills for urban connected homes would rise $35.90, while a rural non-connected home would pay an extra $6.25.
Laying out the budget at a special council meeting Wednesday morning, Mayor Jim Watson called the 2022 spending plan “prudent” and stood by limiting the tax hike to three per cent, citing the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent spikes in inflation.
In total, the city will face $161.6 million in COVID-related pressures as part of the 2022 budget. Ottawa Public Health needs an extra $47.7 million to continue its vaccination and other COVID-19 response efforts, while OC Transpo is $60.6 million short, largely due to lower ridership.
The city expects funding from upper levels of government will cover off the bulk of these pressures related to the pandemic, though a dip into the reserves is in the cards.
OPH board chair Keith Egli said Wednesday that the Ontario government confirmed just that morning that it would cover the local health unit’s roughly $44.3-million shortfall from 2021.
OC Transpo fares would rise 2.5 per cent on Jan. 1, 2022, under the plan, though EquiPass, EquiFares and Community Pass rates would remain frozen at 2018 levels. The draft budget would also provide 2,000 no-charge transit passes to distribute through the shelter system.
The Ottawa Police Service is asking for an additional $14 million over last year’s budget for a total envelope of $346.5 million in 2022, up 2.86 per cent.
Capital spending on Ottawa’s roads, bridges and other major infrastructure is set to hit $989 million in 2022, a jump of $209 million over the current year’s levels.
Other major spending items in the 2022 draft budget include:
- $133.3 million for road renewal, up from $74.2 million in 2021
- $11.5 million for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure such as sidewalks
- $119 million for housing and homelessness supports
- $1.3 million to hire 14 new paramedics and additional ambulances, costs split with the province
- 120 new full-time equivalent positions at the City of Ottawa
- $16 million to repair, improve access to public facilities
- $6.2 million for long-term care homes, plus $2.1 million for new air conditioners in the facilities
Individual budgets for the transit commission, Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa Police Service and the Ottawa Public Library will be considered at individual committee meetings in the month ahead and city council will approve the final budget on Dec. 8.