Councillors propose one-time tax increase to help cover infrastructure gap
A group of city councillors are proposing a one-time tax hike to help pay for city infrastructure.
Ted Raymond, Newstalk 580 CFRA
Published Thursday, December 7, 2017 9:39PM EST
Eight City Councillors have, so far, signed on to a plan to propose a one-time tax increase next year to help cover a gap in funding for city infrastructure.
The 2018 draft budget will be voted on at City Council December 13, but councillors say there is a $70 million gap in funding for things like roads and sidewalks, and other city-owned infrastructure.
A motion by Kitchissippi ward councillor Jeff Leiper proposes a one-time 0.5% increase to property taxes in 2018, which he says would raise about $8 million to go toward repairing crumbling capital assets. It would mean an extra $12 a year for the average urban homeowner, on top of the $76 increase already laid out in the budget.
“I’ve seen musings from other councillors that it’s something that we need to have a serious discussion about,” Leiper says. “The level of taxation and how we’re going to pay for the things we need in this city is clearly going to be a preoccupation for voters in the fall of 2018.”
It was just Wednesday that Knoxdale-Merivale councillor Keith Egli suggested revisiting the 2% cap the mayor has strictly enforced.
Leiper and the mayor went back and forth over taxes on Twitter earlier Thursday
And I appreciated your support of our tax cap and keeping Ottawa an affordable and caring city Jeff— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) December 7, 2017
Again, supported being presented with a 2% draft budget. That's not a "cap". And, affordable for who? Those struggling with transit costs, housing they can afford, rec fees, to eat healthy food?— Jeff Leiper (@JLeiper) December 7, 2017
I believe in keeping my campaign commitments. I ran on keeping taxes at 2%. I don't recall any candidates running on 4% or more. Please correct me if I missed who that was— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) December 7, 2017
Leiper says he thinks residents might be able to sway the mayor’s opinion, if they feel the added taxes would be a worthwhile investment.
He says he believes this measure is needed because it’s “really difficult to find the fat” when it comes to trimming funding elsewhere, something the mayor has also been adamant about.
Our budget is ober $3 billion. I'd coincillora want to spend more on one area they can reduce in another. I assume that's what you do with your own household budget. You make decisions because you can't afford everything— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) December 7, 2017
“At the end of the day, cutting eight million dollars’ worth of services for residents from other parts of the budget is going to hurt,” Leiper says.
The City does have a plan to slowly add money toward the infrastructure gap each year, Leiper says, but he considers his plan to be an extra ounce of prevention to avoid a future pound of cure.
“I think something like a decade from now, or so, we’ll be investing enough to maintain our assets in a state of good-repair,” Leiper says. “But, one of the things that a number of us are concerned about is, for that ten years or so, while we’re trying to make up the difference, assets will continue to degrade. It’s going to end up costing us more to fix them down the road. I think that’s something most homeowners understand. If you ignore a small problem today, it’s going to cost you a lot more when you have an emergency on your hands.”
So far, the following councillors say they’re on board with the measure:
- Councillor Marianne Wilkinson: Kanata-North Ward
- Councillor Rick Chiarelli: College Ward
- Councillor Diane Deans: Gloucester-Southgate Ward
- Councillor Mathieu Fleury: Rideau-Vanier Ward
- Councillor Tobi Nussbaum: Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward
- Councillor Catherine McKenney: Somerset Ward
- Councillor Jeff Leiper: Kitchissippi Ward
- Councillor David Cherushenko: Capital Ward
For $1 per month, we can address the critical infrastructure issues with this budget. Supporting councillors are tagged in the photo. pic.twitter.com/fhkV6JZa1z— Jeff Leiper (@JLeiper) December 7, 2017