City of Ottawa staff outline plan to deal with budget pressures in 2016-18
City of Ottawa staff have set out how they hope to deal with budget pressures in the coming three years by increasing user fees and finding efficiencies in snow removal, the paramedic service and its parks and buildings management, among other things
In a report that will go to the finance and economic development committee next week, staff expect pressures from compensation and costs of maintaining new infrastructure to strain the budget by $63.7 million in 2016, $51.2 million in 2017 and $52.3 million in 2018.
The figure for the 2016 is higher, staff said, because of extra costs from 2015 due to a snowy winter, wage settlements and other issues.
Staff recommend a property tax hike of 1.75 per cent for overall city services in each of the next three years, and raising the transit levy by 2.5 per cent. Those are the same increases property tax payers saw in 2015.
Due to provincial property taxation regulations those increases actually show up as 2 per cent and 2.85 per cent increases, respectively, on a residential tax bill, the report said.
One problem the city faces is less development of homes and commercial properties, so while Ottawa and its tax revenue are growing, the report said it’s growing more slowly, from typical 2 per cent growth down to 1.3 per cent.
Even with the tax levies, the city projects gaps in the range of $23 million a year and a bigger gap of $36 million in the upcoming 2016 budget. Staff recommend covering the immediate concern by using millions in a reserve fund that was meant for buying new vehicles.
Eventually the city hopes to find the money in a variety of other ways: by increase user fees, potentially reducing overtime and advertising, and increasing class sizes for employee training.
The report also suggests a number of places to look for efficiencies corporate-wide, such as restructuring its administration and reviewing the summer student program.
Staff also zero in on operational reviews of specific departments that could net efficiencies, such as winter maintenance, paramedics and its management of parks, buildings and grounds.
The report goes to the city’s finance and economic development committee on Oct. 6 and full council on Oct. 12.
The city’s budget is to be tabled Nov. 12 and put to a vote on Dec. 9.