Finance committee, chaired by mayor, endorses increase
Despite Mayor Larry O’Brien’s “zero-means-zero” campaign promise, residents of Ottawa could see their tax bills increase by an average of $125.
Yesterday, a city finance committee, chaired by O’Brien, endorsed a two-per-cent increase for capital renewal projects and directed staff to prepare an operations budget with a 1.4-per-cent hike. Added to the Police Services budget, forecasted to be 1.6 per cent, the total hike comes to five per cent.
“I’m not comfortable with five per cent,” explained the mayor. “I’m just a little short of furious.”
O’Brien said he would still work toward his zero tax freeze for the city’s 2008 operations budget. However, it was the mayor who proposed the two-per-cent hike on the capital side to pay for maintenance on infrastructure such as bridges, roads and sidewalks. He added the city would enter into discussions with the provincial and federal governments to share in funding for the capital renewal projects.
“Unless we start immediate restorative work on our municipal infrastructure soon, we could be facing huge costs in the near future,” he stated.
During the 2006 campaign, O’Brien ran on a platform of a businesslike approach to government and a four-year tax freeze. Critics, including former mayor Bob Chiarelli, argued the city could not run under such conditions and O’Brien would not be able to achieve his promise.
Coun. Peter Hume insists city services cannot be run at current levels if taxes are not raised by at least the rate of inflation (1.4 per cent). He thinks past actions of council, such as spending city reserves, have made it impossible to maintain a tax freeze. And he argued Ottawa was still below the level of taxation of other municipalities across Ontario.
“History has taught us that zero is unrealistic and it destabilizes our community,” he said.