Only the budget for transit received sustained debate in city hall, with questions raised about the cost of the universal bus pass for students as well as whether $5.5 million in additional funding was enough to deal with the nearly six-per-cent surge in ridership this year.
Ultimately, few changes were made to the city's $2.5-billion operating budget, which had the lowest tax hike in five years.
Previously announced business highlights included:
- $340 million for 150 road, cycling and other infrastructure projects throughout the city. This included $7.7 million to construct a Coventry Road overpass linking the east-end VIA Rail station to Ottawa's baseball stadium. The city factored in low interest rates in its decision to accelerate development through borrowing $125 million for the projects, which is estimated to save $12.9 million when compared with the original plan.
- $1.5 million for economic development, especially "improved coordination of economic development services and resources." The city and OCRI are banding together in this regard under Invest Ottawa, dedicated to bringing in support for key industries such as defence and life sciences.
- Accelerating some development projects through a "green express lane" that puts a dedicated team in place for environmentally sensitive projects.
The city also increased transit fares by 2.5 per cent and announced it would reduce its workforce.
"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," stated city manager Kent Kirkpatrick.
The rate for water and sewer services will be presented in January, the city added.