I would like to provide an overview of the proposed 2016 budget.
Today, I’m pleased to tell you that we are tabling a balanced budget.
The draft 2016 budget follows Council’s direction to keep the tax rate at 2 per cent.
This is good news for local families, residents and businesses… all of whom expect us to live within our means.
The proposed budget would see us remain steady on our priorities of transit, affordable housing, and strengthening our local economy.
We will also protect our front-line services.
In short, Budget 2016 proposes that we continue to be an activist Council by investing in what matters most to our residents.
I want to thank our City Manager, Treasurer, Deputy Treasurer, Deputy City Managers, and their staff for their hard work on this budget.
I also want to thank all of my colleagues around this table.
I met with each of you, alongside senior management, to discuss your ideas and priorities.
You also passed along ideas provided by our residents from across the city.
Let me give you an overview of our 2016 budget priorities.
Budget 2016 will make key investments to create stronger communities.
That starts with helping even more people afford to have a roof over their heads.
We have made tremendous progress over the last few years.
By making unprecedented investments in our City’s most vulnerable, we now have far fewer people living on the street than five years ago.
And while we can take pride in this achievement, there is more work to be done.
For 2016, the draft budget proposes continuing the $2-million increase for affordable housing and homelessness programs that we’ve funded through the provincial upload.
One of the major projects being funded in part by these dollars is the Carlington Community Health Centre.
This partnership between the City, Ottawa Community Housing, the province, the government of Canada, and the Carlington Community Health centre will break ground in 2016 and once built, will bring 42 new affordable housing units to our city.
I am very proud of our increased funding for affordable housing.
In fact, when you add it all up, planned and past investments made by this Council and the last Council will amount to more than $100 million in NEW dollars in this area.
Whether it’s through rent subsidies, new units or renovations of older housing stock – we have made a true difference in people’s lives.
These investments… alongside our predictable 2% tax rate… will ensure Ottawa continues to be an affordable place to raise a family.
We’ll strengthen communities outside the home as well.
Budget 2016 proposes continuing the $50,000 increase we’ve given for low-income families who want to access recreation programs.
We’ll also support our community volunteers who run more than 230 local outdoor ice rinks by increasing the grants we provide them by 10%.
This winter will see the first increase to this program in more than 10 years.
These are modest, but important measures, in improving the quality of life in our communities.
The draft budget also proposes continuing our investments in our gang exit strategy.
This is not a problem that will go away overnight.
But we are working with our partners at Crime Prevention Ottawa, Ottawa Police Service, the John Howard Society, and the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization to move this strategy forward.
In 2016, the Ottawa Police Service Board proposes that this good work will be supported by 25 new police officers.
The budget we’re tabling today also proposes a 1.5% increase in the amounts we give to community health resource centres.
These organizations conduct important outreach and provide crucial services at the local level, especially for vulnerable individuals.
We’ve been steadily increasing contributions in this area since 2010, with overall funding to these centres, rising to more than $10.9 million – a 25% increase in six years.
As a whole, this budget proposes making targeted, smart investments to lift people out of poverty and create healthier, safer communities.
Ottawa is seen as a leader in this area and we will continue to lead.
Budget 2016 will allow us to continue the progress we’re making in providing great community infrastructure.
That means our front-line service priorities such as parks, recreation and culture.
When you look at the proposed budget amounts in this area you will be pleased to see our investments continuing to increase in 2016.
The draft budget proposes investing $2 million in recreation facility upgrades and an additional $1,030,000 in community partnership grants next year.
Budget 2016 proposes 10 new splash pads in community park locations across the city during the next three years.
We’ll also invest $280,000 for design work for a future expansion of Blackburn Arena.
And, the City will provide more than $1.2 million to partner with other funders in Canada150 projects.
This includes expanding of the Bayshore Fieldhouse and the Manotick Arena and an addition to the Albion Heatherington Community Centre.
We will also build on the community success we’ve seen at the Francois Dupuis pool site, as we invest $5.5 million to add a full-service community centre to the facility.
Our parks will also see upgrades or expansions.
This includes Inverness, Pinecrest, Sawmill Creek, Optimiste, Chaudiere and Stonegate Park.
The draft budget also proposes contributing more than $320,000 to complete the playground at the new Miracle League of Ottawa baseball field.
Some of the investments we propose are smaller-scale or behind the scenes.
Sometimes this means new a new pool deck, gym floor or hand railings.
Or maybe it is a new elevator or ventilation system.
These investments are very important for the long-term health of our facilities and our communities.
For example, we’ll invest $1.8 million in much-needed rehabilitation for the Ray Friel and Bob MacQuarrie complexes in Orleans.
Other facilities that will see similar rehabilitation include Walter Baker, Beaverbrook, Dunrobin, Goulbourn, Manor Park, Terry Fox, and the Nepean Sportsplex.
Arenas such as the Howard Darwin Centennial Arena and the West Carleton Community Complex will also see work.
On a city-wide basis, we will invest a total of $326 million to improve existing and build new infrastructure.
This will show our continued commitment to preserving our roads, sidewalks, bridges, cycling paths, and watermains.
City-wide, we’ll invest $35 million in road resurfacing on key roads like Iris Street and Jean d’Arc Boulevard North.
This figure includes also includes a significant investment in the resurfacing and reconstruction of our rural roads including Carp Road, Quigley Hill Road, Old Stagecoach Road, and Earl Armstrong Road.
In the downtown core, we’ll get ready for the 2017 celebrations by repaving Wellington Street, Kent Street and Mackenzie Avenue.
Beyond this, we will have integrated road work projects, which tie together our road, sewer and watermain renewal work.
In this area, the draft budget proposes investing $65 million in 2016.
This includes Gilmour, Renfrew, Cartier, Waverley, Prince of Wales, Crystal Beach and Montreal Road.
We’ll improve structures such as the Garvin Road Bridge… large culverts on Ramsayville Road and Diamondview Road… and the 9th Line Road Bridge.
These are the kinds of core investments that we need to protect and promote.
Our City has spent a historic amount on roads, transit, and infrastructure over the last 5 years.
And now, we have a partner at the federal level that says it will triple spending on infrastructure.
That is very encouraging – the City of Ottawa will be at the table as a partner to help reach this goal and spur our City’s economic renewal.
One thing that myself and my fellow Council members have heard repeatedly from residents are complaints about speeding in residential areas.
This is a significant problem and one we are taking steps to address.
In Budget 2016, each Ward will again receive $40,000 - a total of $920,000 across the city – to institute traffic calming measures that are highly responsive to each ward’s specific challenges.
There will also be new traffic control devices at intersections like Conroy at Queensdale and Blair at Claver.
And we will continue to implement our Complete Streets approach to selected road reconstruction projects in order to better serve all modes of transportation that our residents use.
It is clear that Ottawa is becoming a more dynamic city in a number of ways.
Next year will see our single biggest arts capital investment take shape: the revitalized Arts Court and expanded Ottawa Art Gallery.
This regional arts hub is long overdue.
We’ll also continue to grow our commitment to cultural funding by an additional 1.5% percent this year.
Since 2010, we’ve increased annual cultural grant funding to cultural groups by more than $1 million.
In 2016, we will also continue our investments to ensure ensuring cycling remains a safe and attractive option for commuters and families.
For example, this budget proposes to allocate $200,000 to maintain our 40-kilometre winter cycling network.
I am pleased to tell you that we will also move forward on two key bike lane projects this year.
The first is a partnership with the NCC and the Embassy of the United States of America for bike lanes on Mackenzie Avenue.
This will provide better cycling connectivity and remove the unattractive jersey barriers in front of the embassy.
I want to thank United States’ Ambassador Bruce Heyman who brought this offer to me several months ago.
In 2016, we will also break ground on the first phase of the O’Connor Street bike lane, which will be a great north-south option for cyclists.
This will be a perfect complement to the Laurier Bike Lanes, which will likely celebrate their 2-millionth rider by this time next year.
In addition to this, we’ll invest $1.1 million for cycling improvements on Cyrville Road.
Looking ahead, we will also open the $9.2-million Somerset-Donald pedestrian and cycling bridge.
This will be the fifth bridge we’ve opened in the last three years.
The $25-million investment in cycling during the last term of Council was the largest this city’s ever seen.
At the end of this term we are on track to do even better by investing more than $31 million over four years.
And on the strength of the recommendation made by our transportation committee, we will make an important down payment of $4.8M million on the Fifth and Clegg Pedestrian Crossing linking the Glebe to Old Ottawa East.
I am delighted to hear that there is strong support for this project at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels.
Colleagues, we need to look at this budget against the backdrop of the reality of our local economy and the average family’s budget.
We must be aware that the rate of development and growth has been slowing down.
There is a clear slowdown in our economy with increases in our assessment base projected to be 1.3%, or $18.4 million in new additional taxation revenue in 2016.
By way of comparison, in 2015, assessment growth generated $24.6 million in addition taxation revenue, more than a $6 million decline.
We need to be aware of the challenges this places on our own future plans to fund infrastructure and other priorities.
This will be a challenge.
However, the answer would not be to saddle the business sector, first-time homebuyers, or seniors on a fixed income with an even-higher increase in taxes.
This is true across the city but even more so for wards in the downtown core, which are being hit hard by property re-assessments ranging as high as 8% between assessment periods.
This means some homes will already face a higher tax bill next year, even before we adjust our own tax rate.
Our job here is clear.
Budget time is not just about deciding where we spend more money.
It is equally important to look internally to find savings.
In a $3-billion organization, we should have every confidence that we can find innovation solutions.
That is why in October, City Council directed staff to pursue multi-year efficiency measures to address structural financial challenges, such as:
- Winter maintenance costs;
- Arbitrated wage settlements;
- And increased insurance costs
And I was grateful for the useful suggestions for savings brought forward by Members of Council when I met with each of you about your ideas.
Let me give you some examples.
During our meetings, some Councillors brought hard copies of glossy printed materials that promoted City programs, delivered in large quantities across the city.
Sometimes these products are printed out of habit and it is reasonable to rethink how much we spend on advertising and printing.
Some noticed the number of shiny new City-owned trucks in some of our municipal lots.
It is reasonable to press the pause button on new car and truck purchases while we review how we deliver a more efficient and cost effective winter maintenance program.
I think it’s a similar decision any family would make when they were considering options for their household budget.
Several of you questioned the number of employees in a certain unit or branch.
Our City management has taken these suggestions and will include them as part of ongoing operational reviews we approved last month.
The budget being tabled today proposes a reduction of 50 full-time equivalent employee positions.
This is the 5th budget in a row that would see the municipal workforce reduced in a responsible fashion – during the same years we’ve been named one of Canada’s top 100 employers.
We’ll continue to manage the size of our workforce in a responsible manner, even as we continue to grow.
And looking internally we have proposed measures in Budget 2016 that will save us money next year and put us on a more stable footing as we go forward in the years to come.
Some examples include:
- Reviewing planned purchases of trucks and other fleet vehicles
- Saving $300,000 by contracting out the City’s iron works
- Reducing the use of consultants for internal surveys and online forms
- Reducing paid advertising, media monitoring services, printing, and postage
- Converting streetlights to more-efficient LED technology
- Reducing overtime and on-call staff time
- Reviewing municipally-owned land and properties to sell
These are the types of efficiencies that we have to be diligent about finding.
We owe it to the residents of Ottawa to make sure their tax dollars are spent wisely.
That starts by looking carefully at our own internal spending.
Of course, 2016 will also be a big year for light rail transit.
Construction for the O-Train Confederation Line will continue, which requires dollars not just for construction but also for OC Transpo to shift to a multi-modal transportation company.
We will also get ready for Stage 2 of LRT.
This Council can be very proud of the progress we have made so far.
All three levels of government are now in lockstep on this project.
We can also be optimistic when we see both the provincial and federal governments looking to spend more on infrastructure to stimulate the economy.
As we move forward with preliminary engineering work for Stage 2 LRT this year, we will work hard to ensure our partners maximize their contributions to this transformative city-building project.
We have a strong case not only for Stage 2, but funding for the Trim Road and Airport spur lines as well.
And as part of our TMP refresh, we will look at the feasibility of extending LRT to Kanata.
I look forward to working with all of you around this table to make that happen.
Because we all share the goal of creating a world-class transit system for the nation’s capital.
Residents are starting to see us make good on that promise as they watch the LRT being built right before their very eyes.
As we undertake this very important work, we are always aware of the growing pains on our transit customers.
At the same time, we must remember that this did not happen overnight.
This has been a well-coordinated effort that is going according to plan.
The City and its partners have invested significant sums to make this an easier transition for all of our road users, and our transit customers.
An expanded O-Train Trillium Line, increasing the frequency of trips.
A $206 million provincial investment in the Highway 417 expansion, with extra lanes being used exclusively by our buses for two years?.
And $33 million for new buses to increase capacity during construction.
This draft budget proposes $11.5 million in bus and other OC Transpo vehicle renewal.
We’ll also invest millions more in station and Transitway improvements to create a more comfortable transit experience.
We must also remember that the City’s share of funding for transit capital does not come from the fare box – that funding already comes from municipal taxpayers who foot 100% of the share.
This is in addition to the nearly $88 million in annual gas tax revenue that vehicle owners pay, dedicated exclusively to transit.
The draft budget proposes that the City will generate an increase in fare box revenue of 2.5% in 2016.
This is a balanced approach.
While it would always be nice to see fares frozen, this would severely undermine and underfund our LRT affordability plan that we all support.
I suppose if we could freeze wage settlements or fleet maintenance costs, then we could freeze fares.
But that is not realistic.
One only has to look back two Councils ago to see fare increases of 7.5%, 3 years in a row.
We must continue our balanced approach into the future to ensure we have the funds to pay for better transit, to the benefit of all of our residents.
We have spent some time in the last few months talking about some of the financial challenges we face today and on the horizon.
As elected officials, our residents expect us to look at these challenges reasonably and in a balanced way.
They expect us to show leadership and live within our means.
But that does not mean we will cut back on or abandon our priorities.
Colleagues, if anyone was worried about the City changing direction on its core priorities, there is no evidence of that in this budget.
In closing, let me give you a 2016 summary:
We’ll continue building light rail transit and transform our transportation system.
That includes construction for the Confederation Line and moving forward confidently with Stage 2 to Orleans, Bayshore, Algonquin College and Riverside South.
We’ll see the revitalized Arts Court take shape.
The budget includes funds for the planning and building of two new fire stations at Cyrville and Orleans South.
We’ll open the Bayview Innovation Centre for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
We’ll move towards procurement for a new central library with a $2.9 million contribution from the City alongside a $1 million contribution from the Library.
We’ll start converting our street lights to more-efficient LED technology.
We’ll break ground on the final part of the Ottawa River Action Plan.
We’ll install new red light cameras to keep our streets safe.
We’ll fix roads, sidewalks, and recreation and community centres.
We’ll continue record investments in transit, arts and culture, affordable housing, and economic development.
And we’ll action our solid game plan to attract investment and tourists ahead of 2017.
Last week, I was in Stittsville and a resident came up to me and said “I like the fact the City is finally getting things done.”
It was a brief conversation, but one that I believe sums up our can-do attitude.
When you look at what’s ahead for 2016 and beyond…
We are creating a more compassionate, sustainable, dynamic city.
Colleagues, it is a very exciting time to be in Ottawa.
And working together, we will make it even better.