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(Posted 1:30 p.m., Nov. 28)
City council passes budget with lowest tax increase in six years
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Ottawa city council has approved the budget for 2013 with the lowest tax increase in six years while maintaining expenditures in municipal services and infrastructure.

The 2.09 per cent tax increase equates to an additional $67 on the municipal portion of the tax bill for the average urban Ottawa home assessed at $314,500 and $50 for the average rural home. This does not take into account any increase on the education portion of the tax bill or the impact of property value reassessment.

“This budget addresses the needs of residents and businesses by investing in areas that will enhance existing City services, while maintaining the City’s prudent approach to our long range finances,” said Mayor Jim Watson following the budget's approval on Wednesday..

“It is no secret that our task this year was made more difficult by provincial changes to social service funding. I want express my gratitude to all those residents who participated in the budget process, as well as commending my Council colleagues on fulfilling our commitment to delivering a predictable tax change.”

The budget maintains the ongoing freeze of Mayor and councillors’ office budgets and a reduction in the city’s staffing costs of approximately $3.5 million. ServiceOttawa will also deliver an additional $8.8 million in savings in the coming year by providing citizens with more efficient ways to access many city services, such as permits and licenses, online..

City recreation fees will remain frozen again next year and 2013 will see the continuation of Ottawa on the Move which will invest millions of dollars in strategic infrastructure investments in road, sidewalk, water, cycling and sewer projects.

“With this budget, resources are allocated appropriately to advance Council’s priorities so that we can deliver responsive and efficient services to the residents of Ottawa,” says City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick. “The City is focused on delivering Council’s measured plan to fund today’s priorities, while establishing a solid foundation for the years to come.”

In terms of funding for local projects the proposed budget includes money for parks in Cardinal Creek and Avalon; new crossing guard locations for Fallingbrook Elementary School, Henry Larsen Elementary School and Des Pins Elementary School; and the necessary funding for the opening of the Francois Dupuis swimming pool in Avalon.

The proposed budget also contains $2 million to extend Brian Coburn Boulevard from Mer Bleue Road to Navan Road; $1.5 million for the construction of a sidewalk on the south side of North Service Road from east Rossignol to Trim Road; and $4 million to advance the widening of Tenth Line Road. There is also money for sidewalk renewal in Navan; paving the Hornet's Nest parking lot; traffic safety modifications on Hwy. 174 east of Trim; and the commencement of work on widening and realigning Trim Road.

A number of east end roads will also be resurfaced in 2013 including all of Princess Louise Drive, and sections of Montcrest Drive, Viseneau Drive, Southpark Drive and Colonial Road. Repaving will also be done on Des Epinettes Avenue and Watters Road between Charlemagne and Montcrest.

Other budget highlights include:

- $14 million of continued funding for Council’s poverty and homelessness initiative;

- $4.6 million of realigned and reallocated funding to offset changes in provincial priorities which will preserve the majority of benefits for the most vulnerable and low income residents, including the creation of a one-time emergency transition fund;

- $5.5 million to increase the annual contribution to Capital Funding for infrastructure maintenance and renewal as recommended in the recently approved Long Range Financial Plan;

- $4.9 million to improve safety and mobility with new traffic control signals, intersection control measures, pedestrian countdown signals and the Pedestrian Facilities Program and Audible Signal Program;

- an additional $500,000 for initiatives identified in the Older Adult Plan resulting from last year’s Seniors Summit;

- $2 million for accessibility retrofit work to existing buildings and parks;

- $975,000 combined operating and capital funding to increase the forest cover and combat the Emerald Ash Borer, bringing total investment to $1.8 million;

- new and expanded parks and recreation facilities across the city;

- $1 million, combined capital and operating funding for the Arts, Culture and Heritage Plan;

- a 2 per cent increase for social service and health agencies, cultural, community and recreation funding;

- $2.5 million for ongoing environmental remediation and greening of the City fleet; and

- $2 million for design work for a pedestrian footbridge crossing the Rideau Canal at Fifth Avenue and Clegg Street.

The draft rate-supported budget for water and sewer services for 2013 and 2014 will be tabled at a special Environment Committee meeting in January 2013.

For more information about the budget, visit ottawa.ca/budget2013.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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