Expected funding from the province for COVID-19 related expenses will assist in keeping property taxes at three percent for 2021 (approximately $110 per household), albeit residential water and wastewater rates could rise by as much as by 4.5 per cent.
From provincial and federal government COVID funding promises, $124.2 million will be received towards the City’s $181 million in COVID financial pressures for 2020. Mayor Jim Watson stated, “to date, this represents 68 percent of our overall COVID related funding needs”.
While the 2021 budget protects and delivers the many municipal services residents depend on, new investments have been limited to ensure the City can continue to support public health measures and keep residents safe while positioning local businesses for economic recovery.
One of the highlights of the budget for Councillor Gower is the “$4.2-million to upgrade the Huntmar-Maple Grove intersection,” he told Stittsville Central.
Renewal projects included in the draft budget, will see an injection of $8 million for parks, recreation facilities, theatres, museums, rinks and other such facilities across Ottawa. Of this amount, Stittsville will be receiving $170,000 to build a new play structure at Village Square Park as part of the Stittsville Main revitalization efforts.
Councillor Gower told us, “I’ll be diving into the budget tonight – it’s a massive information package that includes an operating budget of nearly $4-billion and $780 million in proposed capital investments”.
He indicated that the OC Transpo budget will be the biggest challenge. “We’ll see much lower ridership in 2021 which means less revenue; at the same time we know that OC Transpo is an essential service for many front-line workers and part-time workers.” Implemented earlier this year, the OC Transpo fare freeze, is expected to cost $5.1 million in 2021.
“I’m glad to see commitment again this year for investments in affordable housing to the tune of $15-million, and $33-million for housing and homelessness programs and supports,” Gower added.
Mayor Jim Watson in his remarks said, “building permit fees are waived for patio tent structures…monthly patio fees remain at zero dollars in 2020…a $150,000 grant program will soon be launched under the Winter Patio Program – to help BIAs and business associations deploy beautification or small capital projects to help them attract customers to their business districts”.
Watson went on to say, “every part of the City’s workforce has been stretched to maintain the services our residents count on and to respond to the Provincial orders. The demand on City services has not gone down with COVID – it is higher than ever. This includes building permits, development applications, By-law enforcement, surging 311 call volumes, and increased demand for social services”.
More details from the draft budget include the hiring of 14 new paramedics, $15 million or long-term care homes for staffing, COVID-19 protective equipment and infection control. Expecting the province to adhere to its assurance to cover pandemic costs, because of COVID-19, Ottawa Public Health is looking at a $22.5 million shortfall for 2021.
The proposed budget will be considered by all Standing Committees in the coming weeks, then adopted by Council on Wednesday, December 9.
You can have your say about the budget by registering as a public delegation to make a five-minute presentation at a budget review meeting of any committee, board or commission. Visit ottawa.ca/budget to learn about meeting dates. You can also contact Glen.Gower@ottawa.ca to express any views you may have.
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