On Wednesday, December 14th I along with my Councillor Colleagues unanimously passed the City’s Operating and Capital Budget for 2017. This coming years’ Budget has stayed within the promised mandate – maintaining Council’s commitment to limiting the property tax increase to two percent.
In addition to capping the residential property tax at two percent, the transit levy was set at 2.5 percent, and the garbage fee rose slightly by $2, amounting to approximately $72 per year for an urban home assessed at $395,400 and $60 per year for a rural home assessed at the same amount.
The budget also includes a 1.25 percent increase in the total amount generated from transit fares and limits the surcharges for water and sewer services to an increase of five percent. With the financial support of the Federal and Provincial government we are able to move forward with transit, water/wastewater and housing.
I am pleased that the City has managed to put forward a more affordable tax rate while still investing more money into key city services.
One of the key social investments is the introduction of the new EquiPass, which provides residents living below the low income cut-off with a 50 percent discount on a monthly adult transit pass. EquiPass is the largest one-time increase in financial support for public transit in the City’s history.
Beyond that, 17 new busses will become available within the City Transit Network and an extra $4.5 million will be invested into snow removal.
Chief Bordeleau has promised to maintain traffic concerns and infractions such as speeding a priority. And with the advancement of technology and new models coming forward, their jobs will be more efficient and enforcement will be more focused on an ongoing basis. 75 police officers and 43 paramedics will be added to staff and with 2017 being an exceptionally busy year with planned events and celebrations these staff members are a welcomed addition to our emergency services task force.
The budget also places emphasis on supporting core community priorities such as social infrastructure, safety, the environment, support for the arts and efforts to promote economic growth. Substantial investments are also made in active transportation, improved transit services, and programs that support our most vulnerable residents.
Social agencies will receive an additional $610,000, most of which will go toward base funding. Those groups will also receive a two per cent cost of living increase, slightly higher than the current rate of 1.5 per cent.
Taking into account the provincial upload of social services, the city is increasing the level of investment in the Community and Social Services budget by $5.92 million in City money, which is a 3.1 per cent increased investment over last year. This includes the money for the EquiPass, Community Sustainability Fund, and increasing the inflationary funding from 1.5 to 2 per cent for community agencies.
I am particularly pleased with some of the Stittsville-specific highlights of the budget. Of which, $40,000 will be reinvested into Traffic Calming Measures, $763,000 into Parks and Buildings, $475,000 for New Traffic Control Devices Program including phase 2 of the detail design study for the traffic control signal at Huntmar and Maple Grove, $15,000 for the Canada 150 Maple Grove Project which will see 150 Canadian maple trees planted in a grove for Canada’s 150th celebration, and $75,000 for the Palladium Stormwater Facility Maintenance Project.
As I sit around the council table I acknowledge that each of my colleagues and I have different and competing needs and priorities for our wards. There will always be differences of opinion in regards to the allocation and direction the City chooses to go. However, I do firmly believe that the 2017 Budget is an excellent reflection of how we can work together.