Council briefs: draft budget 2021 to be tabled Nov. 4

OTTAWA – The city’s draft budget for 2021 will be tabled at a special city council meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Council approved directions and timelines to develop the draft budget for 2021 during yesterday’s (Oct. 14) council meeting.

“The draft budget will include a three-per-cent increase to the municipal tax rate, which would see the average urban homeowner pay an additional $115 per year and the average rural homeowner pay an additional $88 per year,” city staff released in a statement yesterday. :The city-wide levy, which funds most city services, would increase by 2.5 per cent, while the transit levy would increase by 4.6 per cent, for an overall three-per cent tax rate.”

Council will adopt the final budget on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

 COVID-19 has put financial pressure on the city, with staff projecting a $59.6-million deficit this year. Council received a report the second-quarter status of this year’s budget, along with a year-end budget forecast.

“Although the city is currently in a good position with cash flow, a resurgence of COVID-19 could worsen cash flow and the projected deficit,” staff said.

To address the projected deficit, council approved deferring 33 capital projects to 2021 or later. This deferral will return $42.6 million to reserves and help address funding gaps if required.

Coun. Catherine Kitts, the new councillor for Cumberland Ward, was formally sworn in at council. Kitts was elected on Monday, Oct. 5, in a by-election to replace former councillor Stephen Blais.

“Staff from every department helped run the by-election, which followed measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and ensure electors could vote safely,” city staff said.

Council received the results of a safety review of intersections. A consultant provided design concepts for separated cycling facilities and protected intersections. The preliminary estimate to upgrade these intersections is approximately $32 million, plus costs for property, hydro burial and utilities.

“To help maintain the streetscape character in older communities, council approved a new landscape-first zoning strategy,” staff said. “This strategy better balances the desire to retain trees and landscaped yards against the demand for driveways, walkways and projections on narrower lots.”

The changes impact 12 wards: Bay, College, Knoxdale-Merivale, Gloucester-Southgate, Beacon Hill-Cyrville, Rideau-Vanier, Rideau-Rockcliffe, Somerset, Kitchissippi, River, Capital and Alta Vista.

The city will extend its contract with Precise ParkLink under revised terms until 2026. Precise ParkLink manages Pay and Display machines across Ottawa and the parking systems at the City Hall and ByWard Market garages. Council approved this extension, which protects the city against unexpected drops in parking revenue and only requires the city to pay 15 per cent of equipment costs.

Council received follow-up reports from the auditor general on ethics, the ByWard and Parkdale markets, child-care services, the Giver 150 playground at Mooney’s Bay Park and management of the Lansdowne contract and of emergency shelter providers. The city implemented or made progress on the auditor general’s recommendations, but some work remains before all recommendations from the original audits are fully completed.