Ottawa Citizen: City of Ottawa tables 2017 draft budget: Social agencies get surprise boost, property taxes increase 2%

Posted November 9, 2016

The City of Ottawa tabled its draft 2017 budget Wednesday with Mayor Jim Watson announcing a low-income transit pass that will cost more than what advocates want.
Watson said the new “EquiPass” will cost $57 a month, a discount from the $113.75 regular adult pass. The low-income pass will cost the city $2.2 million annually, he said.
However, social advocacy groups like the City for All Women Initiative and Acorn, have called for a pass costing $41.75. Those groups demonstrated outside city hall before the council meeting.
But Watson sweetened the pot for social agencies. He’s recommending a $610,000 boost in funding, more than the $500,000 the agencies were looking for.
“I’m very proud of the balance this budget has achieved,” Watson said before tabling the budget.
Property taxes would increase two per cent. That means the average urban residential homeowner would pay $72 more in taxes in 2017. An average rural homeowner would pay $60 more.
Broken down, the transit levy on the tax bills would increase $15 for the average urban homeowner and $5 for the rural homeowner.
The garbage fee on all property tax bills would increase by $2.
Water and sewer rates would increase five per cent under the draft budget, following the multi-year hikes adopted in the city’s long-term financial plan.
Arms-length boards that rely on city money have either tabled their 2017 estimates or will table the numbers Wednesday.
The Ottawa Police Service tabled its draft 2017 budget Monday, calling for an extra $11 charged to the average property owner for policing next year.
Ottawa Public Health’s financial plan tabled last week asks for 2017 asks for $375,000 more in municipal funding to cover $831,000 more in projected spending, with the rest covered by the province and other fees.
The Ottawa Public Library, which tabled its budget Tuesday, says it needs to spend an extra $1.3 million next year.
OC Transpo will table its 2017 budget plan later Wednesday.
City manager Steve Kanellakos started focusing on the 2017 and 2018 budgets after returning to city hall in the top job last spring. He shrunk the number of top-level managers over the summer before reducing the number of positions by 177 across the corporation last month. The cuts helped the city accelerate $29.4 million in operational savings for 2017, rather than spreading the savings into the 2018 budget. 
Those savings, along with a significant bump in projected revenue, are expected to help the city offset nearly $50 million in cost pressures in 2017.
The city will hive off the departmental budgets and send the forecasts to the appropriate council committees over the next month. The committee meetings will be the last opportunity for the public to provide direct feedback to council members before the final budget vote Dec. 14.
Article by Jon Willing for the Ottawa Citizen