OTTAWA -- Ottawa city council has approved directions for next year’s budget, including a recommended three per cent increase to property taxes in 2022.

By a vote of 16 to 8, councillors agreed to the approach and timetable for consultation and consideration of the 2022 budget, which also calls for a 2.6 per cent increase to the city-wide levy, a three per cent increase to the Ottawa police services levy and a 4.5 per cent increase to the transit levy.

The police levy was a significant point of contention, with residents calling on the Ottawa police services board and the finance and economic development committee (FEDCo) to vote down the funding increase.

Councillors Shawn Menard and Catherine McKenney tried to introduce a motion to freeze the police budget to a zero per cent tax increase, which police services board chair Diane Deans said would result in layoffs.

“We’ve been told that a zero per cent increase, because 81 per cent of our budget is staffing costs, would result in layoffs of about 100 police service members,” she told council. “Of course, the last people that we’ve hired are the most diverse group we’ve ever hired, so they’re the racialized minorities, they’re the women—they’re the ones that would be leaving.”

The police services board had committed to freezing its 2022 budget at 2020 levels, and Deans said they are still committed to trying.

The motion was referred to budget consultation time later this year.

Sixteen councillors and the mayor voted in favour of the overall budget directions, though councillors Matt Luloff, Riley Brockington and Keith Egli chose to dissent to the increase to the police levy. Brockington also dissented to the increase to the transit levy.

The councillors who voted in favour are: Tierney, El-Chantiry, Luloff (with dissent), Gower, Dudas, Cloutier, Darouze, Sudds, Moffatt, Chiarelli, Brockington (with dissent), Egli (with dissent), Kitts, Hubley, Harder, and Watson.

The councillors who voted against are: Menard, King, McKenney, Deans, Leiper, Meehan, Fleury, and Kavanagh.

City staff say the 2022 budget will outline estimated post COVID-19 financial pressures, and include mitigation measures to cover possible funding and revenue shortfalls, including the use of city reserves, possible reductions in service levels and various additional mitigation measures.

If approved, a three per cent increase in property taxes would cost the average urban homeowner an estimated $119 more in 2022. Rural homeowners would see their tax bill go up by $91.

The 2022 draft budget will be tabled on Nov. 3.