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Chiarelli promises property tax freeze in first year if elected mayor of Ottawa

Bob Chiarelli is promising to freeze property taxes and fees in the first year of his mandate if elected mayor of Ottawa this fall, saying he believes efficiencies can be found in the city's multi-billion dollar budget to cover costs.

The mayoral candidate is also pledging to freeze spending on new projects in year one of the term, including holding off on stage 2 of the Lansdowne Park revitalization project and major road infrastructure work.

Chiarelli announced Monday morning he will freeze taxes, fees and discretionary spending in the first year of a four-year mandate to provide relief to homeowners and renters.

"Job number one is to deal with the reality that life in Ottawa is becoming unaffordable, and too many residents are desperate for relief," Chiarelli told CTV News Ottawa on Sunday.

"Too many of our citizens are burdened with an inflation rate at a 40 year high and we're finding that thousands of individuals and small business people have had to cut back and do more with less, and they expect the same from their municipal government.

"The mandate that we're talking about would be to find efficiencies in what is a $6 billion budget, and find the efficiencies that will not impact on core services. It will get us through the first year."

Chiarelli says if elected, "Job One on Day One" will be to hire experienced financial experts to do a "top to bottom review" of the city's operations, to be completed within 100 days of the new council taking office.

"The mandate will be to find efficiencies that will not impact core services and get us through the first year while we put a solid strategic plan together," Chiarelli said in a media release.

Chiarelli says the city of Ottawa is in a "deep financial dilemma", and he will work with council and city staff to freeze spending for the first year.

"I will call for an across-the-board freeze on all new spending and that means, just so we're clear, that 2023 planned spending will be frozen at 2022 levels. There will be no increased allowances in any budget, except those deemed essential in health, safety and social services, and quality of life for seniors," Chiarelli said. asked Chiarelli if there would be cuts to services to ensure the city of Ottawa stays within its financial envelope.

"Cuts is not a word that we want to use, because we believe that's not what they are. We're talking about finding areas out of this $6 billion budget that we can generate some efficiencies," Chiarelli said.

"Not only generate some efficiencies, we can defer some decisions for one, two or three years so that we can get through this. It is not a normal budget; it's a budget under very serious circumstances."

Chiarelli says he is concerned about Ottawa's "bulging debt and the condition/management" of the reserves, noting the deficit has increased to $3.5 billion and the city is spending $240 million a year on interest costs. 

He would also hit the brakes on phase 2 of the Lansdowne redevelopment project currently before council and other major road projects.

"There will be no new mega-projects approved in the first year of the new council, including Lansdowne Park, no new major road infrastructure contracts entered into and I will recommend the City delay the planned $1 billion purchase of electric buses," Chiarelli said in a statement.

Chiarelli says it is not the time to add another $330 million to the city's debt load for Lansdowne.

"The football stadium and hockey arena at TD Place have sufficient life left in them. The proposed second phase of the redevelopment of Lansdowne will have to wait for the expected better economic times," Chiarelli said.

The 2022 city of Ottawa budget resulted in a three-per-cent property tax increase for Ottawa homeowners, costing the average urban homeowner an extra $119 in property taxes. According to the city of Ottawa, the three-per-cent increase in property taxes was valued at an estimated $56.1 million in revenue this year. 

OC Transpo fares are scheduled to increase 2.5 per cent a year as part of the city's transit plan.

Mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe says on his website that he will "keep taxes and recreation fees as low as possible", while candidate Ade Olumide promised to cap taxes and fees at a one per cent increase. Candidate Catherine McKenney and the other candidates running for mayor do not specifically mention tax targets on their websites.

"When the 100-day analysis is complete on all city operations, council and I as mayor will inform the public on the true picture of City finances with full transparency," Chiarelli said.

"Only then will council be able to get to work on putting the city back on a firm financial footing." Top Stories


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