City Council today approved Budget 2021, which invests in the essential municipal services residents depend on while supporting community needs as they evolve during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The budget limits the municipal tax increase to three per cent, amounting to an extra $115 for the average urban homeowner and $88 for the average rural homeowner. The average household connected to the City’s water supply will pay an additional $37 per year on their water bill. Rural households not connected will pay an additional $7 per year for their stormwater fee, which pays for culverts and stormwater facilities that help prevent flooding and reduce the amount of pollutants entering waterways.
For the third year in a row, the budget commits $15 million to develop new affordable and supportive housing units. With an additional $32 million in federal funding, the City will invest $47 million in capital funding for affordable housing. This is in addition to $112 million in support of housing needs, which includes $33 million for community-based housing and homelessness programs and supports.
Budget 2021 includes funding for 14 new paramedics, to better serve Ottawa’s growing population and address increasing emergency call volumes, along with $25.2 million in community funding for agencies that help residents with the greatest need.
Investments and work on Stage 2 of Ottawa’s LRT system continue. Once Stage 2 is complete, 77 per cent of residents will live within five kilometres of LRT. The cost of the EquiPass and the Community Pass for Ontario Disability Support Program recipients will remain frozen at 2018 rates for another year.
The budget also increases funding to maintain and renew infrastructure like roads, sidewalks and facilities by $25 million, for a total investment of $171 million. With increased support for infrastructure maintenance, the City will close the infrastructure gap – the difference between what the City spends and what it needs to spend annually to maintain infrastructure in good repair – in seven years, rather than 10 years. With an additional $19 million in one-time federal gas tax funding, that’s a total investment of $171 million for infrastructure in 2021.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Budget 2021 invests $3 million to retrofit City facilities to reduce energy use and costs, with a net payback of $365,000 a year expected in eight years. An additional $18.7 million will help protect air and land at the Trail Waste Facility, $2 million to conserve natural lands in rural areas and $1.5 million to plant trees and regenerate Ottawa’s tree canopy. These investments complement the $2.6 million that Council committed in October to Energy Evolution projects.
The City will have one additional ward in the next municipal election, in 2022. Council approved a new ward structure with 24 wards – 12 urban, nine suburban and three rural – that minimizes changes to existing boundaries.
To mitigate the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Lansdowne, Council approved amending the partnership agreement with Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group. The amendments do not require any taxpayer funds and will restore the balance and alignment of risk in the partnership.
According to an audit of the financial partnership for Lansdowne, the City has processes to monitor and validate its financial results. The audit identified a need to increase the frequency of examination and analysis to reduce risks to the City and ensure that forecasted returns are accurately reported.
Council also received audits on the Stage 1 LRT contingency fund, management of City facilities, by-law enforcement, and Meridian Theatres @ Centrepointe and Shenkman Arts Centre.
Based on the mid-term governance review, Council approved re-establishing the Debenture Committee to improve the City’s access to financial markets and reduce debt-servicing costs. Other outcomes of the review include changing recruitment and hiring practices for resident appointments to advisory boards and taskforces, implementing a new performance review process for the City Manager and Auditor General, and adding optional sections in Committee reports for climate, economic, and Indigenous, gender and equity implications.
Following Councillor Jenna Sudds’ resignation as Chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee, Council appointed Councillor Matthew Luloff to chair the Committee. Councillor Sudds replaces Councillor Luloff as a Deputy Mayor.
Council delegated authority to the City Clerk and the Manager of Council and Committee Services to hire staff and approve spending for College Ward for the rest of this Term of Council.
Council approved a motion to conduct an environmental assessment and design an interim multi-use pathway for the Prince of Wales Bridge. The City hopes to secure funding from other levels of government to create this additional active transportation link between Ottawa and Gatineau.