Ottawa budget: City plans $3.76 billion in spending in 2020 with focus on improving OC Transpo
The City of Ottawa tabled a draft 2020 budget Wednesday calling for $3.76 billion in spending with no major cuts as the municipal government proposes to boost funds to relieve a stuffed public transit system.
A $7.5-million transit investment that will go toward bus service enhancements, while $817 million will be spent on LRT Stage 2.
A $15-million investment in affordable housing, maintaining the city’s landmark investment in 2019.
An 18-per-cent increase to investment in the maintenance and renewal of assets such as roads and sidewalks, for a total of $151 million.
The winter operations budget will increase by 7.7 per cent — $5.6 million — from 2019.
A one-year freeze on the cost of the EquiPass and the Community Pass for ODSP recipients.
An additional 30 police officers and 14 paramedic staff.
Mayor Jim Watson said the city is taking “a balanced approach” to a new municipal budget since the city needs to prepare for an uncertain funding future with a provincial government looking for savings and a new minority federal government.
The proposed property tax increase is three per cent. It would mean a $109 increase for the year for the average urban homeowner, $77 more for the average residential rural homeowner and $229 more for the average commercial property owner.
The garbage collection fee for a single-family household would be $96 for the year, an increase of $8.
Council established the revenue parameters in September, including the tax increases, leaving staff to divvy up the anticipated money across the corporation.
Watson spent one hour previewing many of the nitty-gritty details in the draft 2020 budget in a speech before the document was tabled during a council meeting.
More details about OC Transpo’s budget were released at a later transit commission meeting, but Watson acknowledged, “As a city, we need to do better.”
Watson mentioned $7.5 million more in 2020 to improve the bus service and $6 million for an electric bus pilot project, as well as freezing the community pass and EquiPass fares at 2019 rates. The city is also injecting $2 million more into Para Transpo’s budget.
There would be 248.69 full-time equivalent positions added to the municipal public service, with the big increase attributed to public transit at 161 positions.
The city is adding $12.9 million to the base budget, including $3.1 million for winter maintenance and $3.25 million for insurance premiums.
Just to maintain services will cost the city another $86 million, with labour costs eating up $48.5 million of that.
Growing services will cost another $24.9 million. The big costs are in transit, police and public health.
The finance department outlined just two areas of savings in 2020: $2.2 million in the police force thanks to integrating back-office work with city hall, and $1.3 million in operational efficiencies and advertising costs at public health.
Watson confirmed the city wants to hire 14 more front-line paramedics, the second hiring tranche of a four-year goal. The mayor also said he told Premier Doug Ford recently it’s an “urgent matter” and the city needs the province’s help, since there are times when no Ottawa ambulances are available to respond to calls. Paramedics have been delayed at hospitals waiting to hand over patients.
The mayor also announced the creation of an anti-racism secretariat at city hall, which drew applause in the middle of his speech. Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King has called for the creation of a secretariat in response to increasing instances of racial discrimination.
King said the secretariat will be the culmination of community feedback leading to a proposal he brought to city hall. The goal will be to have an “equity of outcome and equity of opportunity,” especially when it comes to employment, youths and municipal governance, King said.
There will be $15 million invested in affordable housing for the second year in a row, Watson said. He believes the money will leverage a matching amount of upper-government money.
Each department’s draft budget will be sent to the appropriate council committee for consideration over the next month. Any amendments will be brought back to a council meeting on Dec. 11 for the final budget vote.
Watson said council needs to remember what all the pie charts and graphs represent in their budget books.
“They are always about our residents,” Watson said.