Bad News: Tax Hike on Municipal Budget. Good News: Could Have Been Way Worse
Folks that ran for council last November must have been slightly crazy.
Due to funding shortfalls from traffic fine revenues, a lower than expected city-share of provincial gaming revenues, a whopping $29 million of un-funded spending commitments from the previous council and new funding requests of $5.7 million, the new council was facing the unpopular decision of raising taxes by up to 7.6%.
Fortunately for all of us, the new council recognized that a tax hike of that magnitude would do nothing for housing affordability – already one of the worst in the country.
Renters and owners all face the consequences of higher municipal taxes. Owners see it directly on their tax bills. Renters see it in rent increases and less money spent on maintenance. We all see it in higher prices at our favourite neighbourhood shops for food and other essentials.
As it is, even with some creative cuts and a pretty balanced approach, we’re all still facing a 4% tax hike. Better than 7.6%, that’s for sure, but certainly higher than inflation.
The City Services and Budget Committee of Council is the first line of Council involvement in budget decisions. Despite the looming deficit, they decided to protect the important programs that really help those in need and key city services that we can’t do without – libraries, community centres, cultural funding, sewer systems, and garbage pick up, among others.
Although Vision and COPE councilors are moaning and groaning about the budget, there is lots of spending for new activities.
The previous council had made an un-funded promise to boost arts funding by $1 million each year for three years. The new council, knowing the importance of balancing cultural spending with affordability, shaved this increase to $700,000.
COPE and Vision scream cut.
Excuse me, since when is $700,000 more per year a cut?
Of course, we expect the opposition to play games with the budget. That’s what they do.
They’ve even criticized the decision to have a contingency fund in place, in case of an unexpected disaster or event. They’d rather spend it all.
COPE and Vision are also saying that the new budget has reduced funding to our vulnerable homeless. If one reads through the budget documents, you can see if is very clear that the funding cut was $100,000 for a consultant’s report for the Homeless Action Plan – not actual services.
I’m very sorry that a consultant isn’t going to be able to bill for his or her time, but I’d rather see funding that actually gets to people living on our streets.
Take a look through the documents. What would you have kept, what would you have cut? Is a 4% increase still too high?
The full budget can be found on the city’s website.
As seen today in 24 Hours