At the Council meeting of March 8th, the 2019 budget was passed. There will be a 3% tax increase to bring the City’s budget to $3.6 billion for 2019. This represents an additional $113 for the average homeowner.
The first budget of a term of council is important because it sets subtle priorities for the whole term (4 year period).
The first budget of the term is a bit oddly timed due to how the election falls. City managers have delegated authority from the beginning of the year to continue spending but must withhold any special program funding until the year’s budget is approved.
In the next few weeks, Council will be tackling a much more important framework: the term of council priorities. This framework sets the highest level of investments, the policy renewal goals and the corporate alignment for the 4 year mandate.
The provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs requires municipalities to review/update their policy framework every so often. This term the Official Plan and the Transportation Master Plan will be among the policies being reviewed.
I believe the key theme of the term of council priorities will be infrastructure. Just last week Council reaffirmed its priority for modernizing public transit by confirming phase 2 of LRT. We have also seen Council commit to an unprecedented amount for a new affordable housing initiative. Housing will also be a top priority of this Council as it must tackle the new realities of affordable accommodations and the shift in funding to prioritize long-term housing options over costly emergency accommodations (shelter stays).
Ottawa residents will be tasked with pushing council to ensure necessary policy shifts are prioritized. Snow clearing, modernizing technology and climate change come to mind as examples.
Here are some highlights from the 2019 budget:
– $15 million for new affordable housing investments;
-New bus options to supplement the infamous #12 (the new #15 will offer peak period relief through the Montreal Rd corridor);
-An extra $9.8 million to fix roads, bike lanes and sidewalks;
-$49 million to resurface and upgrade roads;
-$25.3 million for Montreal Rd revitalization project (budget 2020 should see a similar funding request);
-$14.2 million for St Denis, Lavergne and Ste Monique reconstruction;
-$11.4 million for Mann, Range, Russell and Templeton reconstruction;
-Streetscaping dollars to complete Rideau Street between Sussex and Dalhousie;
-Small snow budget increase for a total of $70.8 million (reflecting the 5 year average budget);
-Additional dollars for neighbourhood traffic calming funding (from $40 000 to $50 000/ ward);
-$500 000 for pedestrian crossovers (PXOs);
-$5.7 million for long-term care homes; and
-$1.5 million for Riverain Park revitalization.