Council approves Ottawa’s 2019 budget

OTTAWA – After a marathon session on the second stage of the LRT (more on that tomorrow), City of Ottawa Council also found time to pass the $3.6 billion 2019 budget today (March 6).

The approved Budget 2019 makes investments to build more affordable housing, close Ottawa’s infrastructure gap, expand public transit service and enhance the safety of Ottawa’s communities.

 “Council has approved a financial plan for this year that is prudent and affordable, and will make needed investments to close The city’s infrastructure gap sooner than previously planned,” Mayor Jim Watson said.

“Budget 2019 strikes a balance between the provision of quality frontline services to the public, including more paramedics and long-term care staff, and our commitment to renew and maintain The city’s infrastructure,” city manager Steve Kanellakos said. “Ultimately, our goal is to help build a city with better roads and sidewalks, expanded transit, more affordable housing and safer communities.”

The budget includes $15 million to build more affordable housing for residents, including approximately 125 new affordable housing units which will be approved this year. Should other levels of government match the municipal investment, this could double the number of approved new units to 250. Many of these units would be built near transit or light-rail stations. The city currently provides $111 million towards housing and homelessness, such as social housing, housing subsidies, support services and homelessness initiatives.

The approved property-tax increase of three per cent will enable the city to spend an additional $9.8 million on roads and other municipal infrastructure, such as sidewalks, buildings and bridges. Increasing the city’s investment by eight per cent, from $118.7 million to $128.5 million, will close the infrastructure gap within the next five years, twice as fast as previously planned. The budget includes $49 million to resurface and upgrade roads, up from an average of $35.5 million per year in the last term of council.

Budget 2019 designates $70.8 million for winter operations, an increase of $2.4 million.

The budget includes $5.1 million to support resident care and quality of life in the city’s long-term care homes, including the hiring of 46 additional staff.

The budget designates $3.4 million in 2019, and $5.1 million on an annual basis thereafter, for new transit routes to meet emerging needs where there is a significant demand for service. Budget 2019 includes an additional $7.8 million for new buses to expand service across The city, $22.4 million to refurbish buses and $55.2 million to replace 79 old buses. The city will spend $4.2 million to expand transit-priority traffic controls.

Budget 2019 includes no-charge transit service for seniors on Sundays, in addition to no-charge service currently offered on Wednesdays.

 The approved budget includes measures to improve neighbourhood quality of life, such as a plan to reforest areas hit by the 2018 tornadoes. In this term ofcCouncil, $1.49 million will be spent annually to plant 500,000 trees and regenerate Ottawa’s forest cover across rural, suburban and urban communities. Forestry Services will begin planting in areas impacted by the tornadoes as early as this spring and planting efforts will continue through the fall and into 2020.  

The budget includes a 25-per-cent increase in funding for ward-led traffic-calming projects across the city, up from $40,000 per ward to $50,000. The budget includes support for hospitality businesses through a 50-per-cent cut to patio fees for restaurants, saving the average restaurant about $3,200 a year.

The tax-supported operating budget for the city is $3.2 billion, an $85-million increase over 2018. The budget caps the residential property-tax increase at three per cent. The increase, including the transit levy, amounts to $113 for an average urban home, less than $10 per month.

The rate-supported budget, which supports water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, includes a water rate increase of 4.8 per cent in the urban area, in line with council’s long-term financial plan for these services. This represents an increase of $36 per year for the average household.

The budget includes spending $340 million in 2019 on infrastructure, including roads, bridges, buildings, watermains, sewers and transit infrastructure. Budget 2019 contains $12 million for culverts in the rural areas to facilitate drainage and prevent flooding.

For rural specific budget spending, which West Carleton Online covered on Feb. 12, click here.