Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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BudgetSpeak and the City's budget

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City Council will receive the draft budget today. For the next month or so, we'll debate it through the committee structure until passing the final version in early December. There's been a lot of press around the budget, and I likely don't need to tell residents about some of the challenges we're facing. Council has asked staff to develop a budget that would see us try to achieve no more than a 2% increase in property taxes. Today, we'll see how they suggest we accomplish that. I'm expecting we'll see a mix of higher user fees proposed as well as services and capital purchasing that are cut, reduced or delivered more efficiently.

My priority in this process will be to ensure that programs, services and public works that are critical to our residents don't suffer for the sake of adhering to a 2% increase. The inflationary pressures on the City are much higher than that. Many of my colleagues and the City's residents believe we can achieve the same service levels by delivering them more efficiently - I hope that's the case. On transit fees that were the focus of my attention in my first budget process earlier this year, I'll be watching to see how much higher fares are suggested to go to make up for flat ridership. I continue to believe that more of the cost of running transit should fall on the tax base lest we wind up pushing more riders back into their cars, with major financial repercussions for everyone.

To develop my approach, I've been listening to residents ever since passing the last budget, and hearing your concerns and suggestions. In October, Councillor Catherine McKenney and I again held a BudgetSpeak session. My thanks go to Citizens Academy, the City Treasurer's office, and especially to the staff in Catherine and my offices.

The report arising from that consultation session can be found here.

I think the report generally validates what I've been hearing for months: a 2% tax hike target is less important than delivering services that residents expect in the most cost-effective way. A mainstream of those from whom I hear would rather pay a little more to continue to receive services they value than cut them. Everyone, of course, would like to pay less.

But I also want to say that there is no monolithic view in Kitchissippi to help guide me. The BudgetSpeak document speaks to the views of participants in that consultation session. Property values in our ward are shooting through the roof, and a 1.75% increase on the residential portion of our tax bills is compounded by increases in assessment. Not everyone agrees that we need every service, and some would be happy to see services pared back to ensure the lowest possible tax hike.

I get stopped on the street every day by people wanting to talk, host my weekly pop-ups and quarterly ward forums, receive a flood of email and phone calls, and haven't stopped door-knocking since last December. I hear views that are different from those expressed in this report. I'm thrilled with Citizen Academy's work on BudgetSpeak. I think Councillors Fleury and Nussbaum, Catherine and I have established a high bar for how budget consultation should be done that I'm keen to keep doing. But it's not the only input I'm considering. 

Over the course of the next four weeks or so, I know I'll hear from more of you. I'm looking forward to it.

Thanks for your continued engagement and help, Kitchissippi.


Posted November 12, 2015