If Jim Watson is elected mayor, property taxes will not increase by more than 2.5 per cent, he promised on Thursday.

“If we can go better than that without crippling public services we’ll work to that, but you have to set a threshold and set the bar and work all year to achieve that,” he said. “2.5 per cent is something that is very attainable.”

Though it would still be a challenge, Watson said it would be achieved with municipal funds opening up through provincial uploading, improving the city’s legal services and reducing employee absentee rates.

He is also soliciting cost-saving tips through a SaveMeMoney link on his website.
Watson took aim at Mayor Larry O’Brien and Bay Ward Coun. Alex Cullen, his two most likely challengers, saying the city has endured “four terrible years of financial wandering.”

He pointed to the snap decision to purchase 226 new articulated buses, the flawed procurement of a next stop announcement system for buses, and the construction of a new nearly $100 million bus garage, he called “the Garagemahal” as examples of “not sensible” spending.

Watson also called O’Brien’s Zero Means Zero promise in the last campaign an “irresponsible gimmick” and criticized Cullen for only promising to keep annual property tax increases below double digits.

O’Brien will announce whether or not he plans to run again on June 29.

Cullen responded by saying that since property taxes are determined by the cost of providing services, Watson should also identify the services that he intends to cut or cap.

“If the police services budget comes in over 2.5 per cent, to meet his cap would require cuts elsewhere,” said Cullen. “He owes it to taxpayers to explain how he would achieve his goal.”

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