2% tax hike, low income transit pass part of Ottawa draft budget
Published Wednesday, November 9, 2016 4:58PM EST Last Updated Wednesday, November 9, 2016 5:09PM EST
Massive job cuts at Ottawa city hall earlier this year have helped fund a balanced budget for next year.
The city of Ottawa tabled its draft budget today that calls for a 2 percent tax hike.
For the average urban homeowner, that means $72 more a year in taxes next year. The average rural homeowner will pay an additional $60. The budget also includes a special bus pass for low-income earners.
It was a black day for nearly 200 city hall employees after two rounds of layoffs in July and October of this year. But those cuts helped put the budget in the black, resulting in $18.4 million dollars in savings.
“We've taken those dollars out of the budget and that's how we were able to meet the target that was set by council,” says Ottawa city manager Steve Kanellakos, “and we did better than we thought.”
So today, as councilors posed for a photo opportunity, donning Christmas hats, it seems that Christmas came early to city hall with something in this budget for almost everyone.
“We are bringing forward a balanced budget for 2017,” Mayor Jim Watson told councilors, as he tabled the 2017 draft budget.
Among the items in that budget was a low income transit pass, called the Equi-pass which, when introduced in April of 2017, will cost $57 a month, or half the cost of a regular bus pass. The cost to city will be $2.7 million dollars.
“The proposal we put forward is a 50% reduction,” Watson told reporters, “which makes this the single largest social service subsidy program we have brought forward to council.”
While some groups had pushed for a pass worth about $41, Linda Lalonde, the chair of the Ottawa Poverty Reduction Network says this is a great start, “It will make people able to get out and about, get to medical appointments, do groceries, it's a huge step.”
Among the other budget items, $8.4 million for cycling with 38 new kilometres of bike paths, $4.5 million for winter road maintenance, 25 more police officers on the streets, 24 more paramedics on the roads, more money for the arts and for social services.
“It's going to mean more capacity to be able to help people,” said Heather Stecher with a group called Making Voices Count, “hopefully more personnel and more infrastructure.”
To pay for it all, the draft budget calls for a 2% increase in taxes, a 1.25% increase in transit fares, and a 5% hike in water and sewer rates.
“We’re making investments of parks, paramedics and public recreation,” said councillor Stephen Blais, “So it's the “P” model of municipal government.”
Add to that a "B" word: a bid for the 2021 Summer Games. The final budget goes to council December 14th.