This week, City Council officially approved the budget for 2018.
There was a fruitful discussion surrounding the needs of the City moving forward and one of these important needs identified was Infrastructure in Ottawa.
Throughout the draft 2018 budget discussions, we have heard at our committee meetings and from public comments that infrastructure plays a key role in making sure that our city is well maintained for residents to productively move forward on a daily bases.
City Council saw this need and voted to approve the strategy to address the tax-funded infrastructure gap within the next 10 years beginning in 2018. There was also a motion presented at this meeting to see how that 10-year term could potentially be shortened.
However, some of my Councillor colleagues put a motion on the table recommending that the municipal property tax increase of 2% should be raised by an additional 0.5% with the additional revenue to go into general infrastructure improvement projects. I was not in support of this motion for a few reasons. I felt that a motion of this nature with no specific projects identified for its use would not act in the best interest of all of Ottawa’s wards. Additionally, I felt that putting a motion recommending a tax increase at the last minute of the budget approval without any form of public consultation or the time required for a proper report to assess its use would be unfair to our residents who work hard to pay their taxes every year.
At the start of our term, we as a City Council sat at the table and unanimously agreed to hold at a residential tax increase of 2%. As a City Council, I believe that we need to be more proactive in finding solutions to problems. At this budget meeting, I felt this was not the time to point fingers but to see how we can all work together to find a common solution. Over the years, some referred to Ottawa’s City Council as being a giant sand box. To which I say: let’s continue to build the best sand castles.
City Treasurer, Marian Simulik, later at the meeting revealed that an additional $10 million of surplus was available from the 2017 fiscal year. News of this $10 million was very welcome and is indicative of the sound financial management from the City of Ottawa’s diligent financial staff. As a result, I was proud to support Mayor Watson and Councillor Cloutier’s motion to put that $10 million toward the much-needed infrastructure improvements.
In the end, the 0.5% tax increase motion was not approved and the motion to invest the additional $10 million surplus into infrastructure was approved in its place.
As a result, for the fifth year in a row, the property tax increase will remain at two percent or less.
For a full update regarding the details of Budget 2018, please review the below information provided courtesy of City Communication channels.
Budget 2018 emphasizes affordability, progressive growth, neighbourhood security, quality of life and environmental sustainability. Council approved the budget after five weeks of review and public discussion at 14 committees, boards and commissions.
The approved budget caps the residential property tax increase at two per cent, increases transit fares by 2.5 per cent, increases most recreation fees by two per cent and increases the annual garbage fee by $2. For an urban home assessed at $404,000, the increases are about $76 for the year. For a rural home of the same value, the increase is about $62.
Council received an update from City Treasurer Marian Simulik, with the latest tax revenue information for the year. The City expects it will end 2017 with a surplus, due in part to $10 million in greater than expected assessment growth. Council voted to use the $10 million to renew additional infrastructure, including streets, sidewalks, bike lanes and buildings. Council will approve the allocation of this spending in early 2018.
In total, the City will have an operating budget of $3.4 billion in 2018 and a capital budget of $739 million, including the additional $10 million in infrastructure funding approved by Council.
Among the highlights of the approved financial plan for 2018:
- $2.3 million more for winter operations, totalling $68.3 million, to support all modes of winter travel, including the O’Connor Street and Main Street cycling lanes.
- $600,000 to repair potholes, bringing the total for asphalt repairs to $8 million.
- $5.6 million more to resurface roads, a 17-per-cent increase, totalling $39.2 million.
- $217.7 million in capital spending for a variety of projects, including integrated roads, water and wastewater work and building the Kanata South Link.
- $5.5 million to expand pedestrian and cycling facilities.
- $3.5 million for the Barrhaven rail-safety program.
- As of April 1, 2018, residential on-street parking permit fees will increase by between 1.9 and 3.3 per cent. The annual fee for the on-street parking permit will be $660. The monthly fee increases to $31 for summer months (April to November) and to $143 for winter months (December to March).
- The new EquiFare Single-Ride Fare to provide low-income residents with an affordable single-ride fare option before the end of June 2018. The EquiFare complements the EquiPass discounted monthly pass, which started in 2017.
- $9.8 million in additional funding to expand transit service for growing areas of the city using the 17 new buses purchased in 2017. The 2018 plan also includes replacing 80 OC Transpo buses, refurbishing 85 more buses, road and signal projects to improve transit speed and reliability, as well as improving transit stops and stations.
- A new multi-day transit pass targeted at visitors to Ottawa and residents who need unlimited transit travel for a defined period. The new passes will be for three, five or seven days. They will be available later in 2018 at ticket machines at O-Train stations.
- More than $550 million in 2018 to complete Stage 1 of the Confederation Line O-Train.
- $60 million for preliminary planning and procurement for Stage 2 of the Confederation Line light-rail transit project, which will add 39 kilometres and 23 more stations to Ottawa’s light-rail system by extending east, west and south.
Community and Protective Services:
- $1.3 billion in operating expenses for community and protective services, including $293.2 million for Emergency and Protective Services, $695.9 million for community and social services, $300.8 million for recreation, cultural and facility services, and $38 million for parks.
- The majority of the $48.9 million in capital spending will go towards parks, recreation and culture, with $21.4 million earmarked to renew parks and buildings. Highlights include renewing the Nepean Sportsplex, the Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex and the Howard Darwin Arena. The City will also replace play structures at Alta Vista Park, Greely West Park, Blue Rock Park and Beaton Park.
- 14 new paramedics and one additional emergency response vehicle, adding to the 36 paramedics hired in this Term of Council.
- Additional funding to deliver children’s services: $17.9 million in subsidies to support families most in need of high-quality child care to reduce and/or eliminate the current waitlist.
- $1 million more for agencies that receive renewable community funding, for a total of $23.5 million, and $100,000 of existing funding reprioritized to create a one-time, non-renewable project fund for agencies not currently receiving funding. These non-profit social service agencies provide vital services, including access to the basics such as food programs, day programs, counselling and support services. The additional funding will assist with the minimum wage increase and help agencies sustain existing services while they respond to increasing demands for services and growing pressures.
- $12 million to renew the City’s rural infrastructure, including more than $8 million to rehabilitate bridges and bridge culverts.
- $1.8 million for Richmond Bridge on McBean Street, $760,000 for Ashton Bridge on Ashton Station Road, $520,000 for Peter Robinson Road Bridge and $470,000 for Monaghan Bridge on Old Richmond Road.
- $1.18 million for the Highway 174 bridge culvert at Cardinal Creek and $840,000 for a bridge culvert on O’Toole Road.
- $3.1 million to reconstruct and upgrade roads in the rural area, including renewing guiderails.
Planning and affordable housing:
- $49.3 million in operating expenses for planning, including Building Code Services, planning services, right of way, heritage and urban design.
- $15.7 million to provide more than 100 new affordable rental or supportive housing units and to support accessibility modifications and renovations for more than 100 low-income seniors and people with disabilities.
- Starting on January 1, fees for a variety of planning services, including heritage applications, inspections, the development review process, Ontario Building Code services and permits, including for outdoor patios, will increase by approximately two per cent.
- $15.1 million more for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services, for a total of $365.2 million. Of this, $201.6 million will go towards renewing and growing the City’s water infrastructure.
- $2 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and for energy management.
- The average urban household that is connected to the municipal water service and uses 15 cubic meters of water will pay an additional $7.50 per year for water services.
- The City issued the first green municipal bond in Canada to raise $102 million for construction of the light-rail system.
- $4.3 million to modernize technology and renew aging and critical IT infrastructure and systems.
- $2.7 million to improve technology security and protect City IT infrastructure and data from cyber threats.
- $1.2 million for the Digital Service Strategy, a multi-year roadmap of digital priorities and investments to improve access to City services while leveraging and piloting new technologies.
City Council also approved a four-per-cent Municipal Accommodation Tax on short-term overnight accommodations, including hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts and online platforms, such as AirBnB. The tax revenue will be used to promote Ottawa as a top destination for tourists and to attract large events and conventions. The tax replaces the current voluntary three-per-cent Destination Marketing Fee, which has generated $8 to $9 million annually since 2004. Ottawa welcomes approximately 10 million visitors each year and is home to about 11,000 tourism related businesses, making tourism one of Ottawa’s largest economic generators. Council approved an amendment to the report, allowing small owner-occupied bed-and-breakfast residential facilities to apply for an exemption to the tax, as long as bookings are not managed by a home-sharing third party.
Council received the annual report of the City’s Auditor General and seven audit reports on: emergency management and public health; information technology remote access controls; roads services; children’s services; Lansdowne Park management; support and management of emergency shelters; and the safety and security plans for the O-Train Confederation Line.
Council approved construction at 667 Bank Street, along with the necessary zoning amendments. The building is to include retail on the ground floor and four residential levels above. The site is in the Clemow Estate East Heritage Conservation District and is the only property in the district that fronts onto Bank Street – the Glebe’s traditional mainstreet.
City Council approved a zoning amendment for Southminster United Church at 1040 Bank Street, permitting redevelopment of the lands behind the church building. The existing assembly hall will be demolished and replaced with four townhouses and a six-storey, 14-unit apartment building.
Council approved the establishment of a Planning Advisory Committee that will address provincial government changes to the Planning Act. The Committee will include residents from across the city, representatives of community and business associations, as well as professionals from the development industry. The Committee will advise Council on matters such as the work plan for Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development Department.
As well, Council received the strategy for Energy Evolution, a multi-year plan for renewable energy that aims to reduce energy use, increase renewable energy and advance local opportunities for economic development. The strategy outlines 33 initiatives for the City and community partners to undertake between 2017 and 2020, including establishing a fund to manage energy investments.