City council approved a 3.85 per cent tax increase today, taking $98 from the average homeowner, between property taxes and utilities.
The final motion came after a five per cent increase was initially put forward by administration. The total cost represents $60 in property taxes and $38 in added utility costs.
“I think council understands people are faced with challenges and we didn’t want to go away from our vision ... and we were able to shave a little bit off of that in order to meet the needs of the programs … but still making sure we can deliver the programs that people told us through the election they wanted,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel, highlighting increased transit services and maintaining the neighbourhood renewal program as main positives in the 2011 operating budget.
The reduction in the tax levy comes from a 2.35 per cent tax increase for civic services plus 1.5 per cent to continue the neighbourhood renewal plan.
The vote was 11-2, with Couns. Kerry Diotte and Linda Sloan opposed.
“I think we really missed an opportunity here,” said Diotte. “No budget should go beyond the rate of inflation. Unfortunately this one does.”
Diotte’s motion to cut $27 million out of the $1.8 billion budget was defeated last week, a move he said would have resulted in no tax increase at all.
At the very least, he said, a two per cent increase should have been strived for, to meet the rate of inflation.
“This budget hits the people who can’t afford it,” he said.
A total of 38 per cent of the increase is because of utility hikes.
“In a $98 increase in cost to typical homeowners, 38 per cent of that is because of utilities,” said Coun. Bryan Anderson. “Thirty-two per cent of the cost of running a home is because of utilities.”
Having four councilors member of a utilities committee for the full three years will help with understanding the impacts of utility rates.
“In the future, we don’t need to continue to raise utilities to keep property taxes down,” he said.