Council approves lowest tax rate in five years
Ottawa – City Council today approved the budget for 2012 with the lowest tax increase in five years – 2.39 per cent – in keeping with the guidelines set by Council last year.
Budget 2012 will allow the City to proceed with much needed city-building infrastructure projects. Ottawa on the Move will see roadwork and bridge repair, sidewalk upgrades, sewer and culvert improvements and cycling infrastructure investment across the length and breadth of Ottawa. The plan will advance the work by many years and help prepare the City to host Canada’s sesquicentennial.
“City Council set a solid fiscal framework when it assumed office last year and this budget continues on the promise of prudent financial management,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “We have listened to our residents and are delivering a predictable rate that also allows us to provide high quality services and opportunities for Ottawa families. “
Ottawa on the Move will see improvements to all transportation networks across the city. Council made the decision to maximize transportation choices for our residents in advance of the light rail construction period and in advance of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. Through the Ottawa on the Move program, $340 million worth of projects will be completed and a record amount of funding will go towards cycling initiatives.
The budget includes a continued freeze on fees for City recreation programs, a transit fare increase limited to 2.5 per cent and an investment of $5.5 million in additional funding for OC Transpo to add some 66,000 service hours to address the almost six per cent growth in transit ridership on our transit system. Also, for the first time since 2004, the City is reducing the size of its workforce.
For the owner of an average home assessed at $304,800, the 2012 budget will mean a property tax increase of $75 for the year. The rate-supported budget for the water and sewer services will be presented in January.
After the draft budget was tabled at City Council in October, the City held four city-wide public meetings. The City also held meetings of its seven Standing Committees, the Library Board, the Board of Health, the Police Services Board and the Transit Commission. In total, there were 15 forums where the public could comment on the budget, in addition to a budget e-mail address set up by the Mayor.
“The 2012 budget plan was carefully planned not only for today but with an eye on the City’s long-term needs,” said City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick. “This budget will build our city infrastructure more quickly than planned, while saving taxpayers money through improved operations and a prudent amount of low-cost borrowing.”
The 2012 operating budget for the City of Ottawa is $2.5 billion and the capital budget is $850.8 million.
The City of Ottawa is in strong financial health, with the lowest debt-per-capita among the big Canadian cities. By accelerating our investment in capital projects, at interest rates below three per cent, it is estimated the City will save $12.9 million. The City will undertake approximately 150 infrastructure projects.
Among the many projects the City is proceeding with are:
– Construction of major new recreation facilities in Barrhaven and Kanata North
– Building 17 new parks
– Redevelopment of Arts Court
– Additional sewer system work to improve water quality in the Ottawa River
– 200 kilometres of road construction
– 70 kilometres of bicycle lane and road-shoulder construction
– 20 kilometres of additional sidewalks
– 120 road resurfacings and 27 bridge and overpass projects
– Targeted funds for the bus transit system to meet rising demand and ease crowding
– New systems for easy payment for transit service and to inform riders about bus arrivals
– 75 new double-decker buses to improve transit commuter service
– Six new trains for the highly successful O-Train service
– Improvements to the Kanata storm sewer system
– Changing the development approvals process to expedite approvals for projects that meet high environmental sustainability standards
– Reorganization of City staff, operations and technology to save money and improve service to residents through the new Service Ottawa department
Highlights from Budget 2012
– A proposed tax increase of just 2.39% – the lowest rate in 5 years.
– Forty-seven full time equivalent positions have been eliminated in Budget 2012 contributing to savings of more than $3.4 million each and every year.
– Transit fares held in check: This year even with fuel prices up by more than 12% and ridership up by 6%, we have once again kept fare increases to 2.5%.
– Police, Library and Public Health tax rates at or below 2.5%.
– $3 million in the coming year for green building retrofits and $500,000 a year to expanding our green fleet program.
– $14 million in vital funding for housing and homelessness initiatives across the city.
– Budget 2012 devotes an additional $3.2 million to boost service to deal with growth in OC Transpo ridership.
– In addition to growth, Budget 2012 provides a targeted $2.3 million in funds to boost capacity on routes like the 87, 94, 95 and 96.
– An additional $10 million over three years for cycling infrastructure.
– We are expanding our park and ride network.
– Ottawa on the Move, which will devote $340 million over three years in resurfacing, road reconstruction, sidewalk improvements, cycling infrastructure and rehabilitation of aging structures.
– A plan to reform the planning process in Ottawa.
– Creation of a Green Express Lane for development applications that meet high standards for housing, buildings and renovations.
– More money for the Environmentally Sensitive Land Fund we created last year, dedicated to making sure the City has the resources to buy key parcels of land that make sense.