Heading into election year, city proposes 2% property tax hike

More money pledged for road resurfacing, renewal of bridges and sidewalks
City hall
Photo by Lord of the Wings / Flickr

Completing the first phase of Ottawa’s LRT line and renewals of city infrastructure are high on the docket for the 2018 draft budget, tabled during Wednesday morning’s city council meeting.

The proposed 2018 property tax increase is two per cent, in keeping with Mayor Jim Watson’s pledge to cap tax hikes at that symbolic level.

This means an urban homeowner with a property assessed at $404,000 will pay an additional $58 in property taxes next year, bringing their total bill to $2,977. When transit levies and garbage fees are included, that same homeowner will pay $3,724, an increase of $76.

On the non-residential side, the owner of a commercial property assessed at $460,000 will see their total bill – including property taxes and transit levies – rise $163 to reach $7,981.

This will be the final budget of the current term of council before the 2018 municipal election.

Overall spending up 5.6%

While the city is limiting the property tax increase on residents to two per cent, overall municipal spending is slated to rise at a much higher rate.

Larger grants from senior levels of government mean total expenditures are expected to hit $4.15 billion next year, up 5.6 per cent from $3.93 billion this year.

Some of the big-ticket line items include:

  • $550 million to ensure the first stage of Ottawa’s LRT system is completed in 2018, bringing the total to the previously budgeted $2.1 billion, as well as preparing to launch stage two in coming years.

  • Roughly $477 million for the renewal of city infrastructure, including roads, bridges, sidewalks, wastewater systems and municipal buildings. The city proposes to increase the capital budget by $12.6 million to $112.4 million for items such as road resurfacing as well as renewal of bridges and sidewalks.

  • An additional $300,000 for arts and culture, bringing total funding up to $11.5 million on the year.

  • An extra $2.3 million for winter operations following the harsh and unpredictable storms in recent years. This brings the total up to $63.8 million.

Community and social services make up the largest single chunk of spending. Programs providing supportive and affordable housing, access to food and other social services would receive $671 million under the draft budget, or 19 per cent of total expenditures.

“The last seven years have seen us focus more heavily on transit infrastructure,” Mayor Jim Watson said Wednesday, according to his prepared remarks. “Today, residents are asking us to shift some of that focus to our social infrastructure and to our other built infrastructure needs.”

The budget also makes provisions for sustainability. Roughly $1 million will go towards reducing energy consumption in city facilities, with an additional $500,000 earmarked for a fleet of green vehicles. The city will also implement “green bonds” to fund $102 million in capital for the second stage of LRT.