Inflation, supportive housing put pressure on Kingston tax bills this year

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Inflation, supportive housing put pressure on Kingston tax bills this year
Kingston city councillors begin their 2023 budget talks tonight with a staff recommended property tax increase of three per cent – Feb 27, 2023

Kingston homeowners can expect to pay more on their property tax bills in 2023.

City councillors will open the books on the first budget of their term this week with staff recommending a property tax hike of three per cent to pay for municipal services and programs.

That works out to an extra $91 in taxes for an average house assessed at $380,000.

The proposed tax increase is slightly higher than what the previous council had approved — mainly due to extra funding sought for homelessness and housing initiatives.

The City of Kingston aims to raise $1.7 million from property taxes this year to support sleeping cabins and other shelter initiatives. CKWS TV

City staff say the 2023 operating budget presented to councillors includes a 2.3 per cent tax hike, which works in a one per cent increase to help pay for infrastructure work.

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But the tax increase could jump to three per cent to support local housing and homelessness programs. The extra 0.7 per cent tax will raise about $1.7 million to help the city’s less fortunate.

“The support services include but are not limited to the sleeping cabins, temporary shelter services such as 218 Concession Street, established during the pandemic supportive housing projects, as well as other supports such as motel stays,” according to a budget report from city treasurer Desiree Kennedy.

The extra money will also support housing options including the potential extension of funding to current facilities and community agencies, she adds.

Kennedy says uncertainty over ongoing provincial funding for housing and shelter programs is one factor why the city is trying to raise extra money in case it’s needed.

Overall, the 2023 budget stands at $427 million, a spending increase of $16 million over 2022.

Staff say the proposed budget does not include any cuts to existing services and programs.

About $70 million from the budget will support various external agencies including a four per cent spending increase for Kingston Police, 4.7 per cent more for the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, and a five per cent budget increase for the Kingston Frontenac Public Library board.

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Kingston police are seeking a higher spending increase in 2023 to hire extra officers. CKWS TV

To balance the books, the proposed tax increase will raise $253 million in revenue. Other revenue will come from municipal fees and charges plus payments and grants from senior governments.

The 2023 capital budget, which is also up for discussion, amounts to $114 million this year for a variety of infrastructure work.

The capital projects list for this year include:

  • $15 million for general road repairs
  • $15.5 million to reconstruct the Gardiners Road/Centennial Drive intersection
  • $10 million for affordable and supportive housing
  • $3.2 million for a new ambulance station and vehicle
  • $3 million for parks
  • $10 million in fleet replacement

Three nights have been set aside for the council budget talks starting Feb. 27.

If the hefty financial document is approved, local taxpayers will also notice their annual bills will, once again, indicate separate levies for Frontenac County and an annual grant to the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation, which is expected to push the recommended three per cent tax increase higher.

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But that could pale in comparison with future budgets over this four-year council term.

In the same report, staff forecast annual property tax hikes of five per cent in 2024, 3.7 per cent in 2025, and 3.6 per cent in 2026, partly due to ongoing inflationary pressures.

Kennedy adds, “Projections will be reviewed and adjusted as necessary once Council has the opportunity to set its priorities and fiscal direction for the upcoming term.”

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