City councillors push for additional 0.5% tax hike to boost infrastructure spending

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Motion runs counter to Mayor Jim Watson’s pledge to cap increases to 2%

Ottawa Business Journal

Arguing the city urgently needs more cash to repair crumbling infrastructure such as roads and recreation facilities, eight Ottawa city councillors have banded together to push for a further 0.5 per cent hike in next year’s tax bill.

Councillors Jeff Leiper, Diane Deans, Marianne Wilkinson, Rick Chiarelli, Mathieu Fleury, Tobi Nussbaum, Catherine McKenney and David Chernushenko are backing the proposal. They say the one-time infrastructure levy translates to a $12 increase in the average taxpayer’s bill and is expected to raise about $8 million.

“We heard loud and clear throughout the budget process that residents want us to invest more in our infrastructure,” Ms. Deans said in a statement. She said the increase will cost taxpayers about a dollar a month, or “less than a cup of coffee or a chocolate bar.”

However, the motion produced a mixed reaction on social media.

Mr. Leiper, who initially proposed the plan, will put the motion on the floor when council votes on the 2018 budget at its next meeting on Wednesday.

The proposal sparked a war of words between councillors who support the plan and Mayor Jim Watson, who is remaining steadfast in his commitment to holding the line on tax increases at two per cent.

According to a budget analysis presented to the finance and economic development committee this fall, the city is spending about $70 million less each year than it should be on keeping roads, public facilities and infrastructure such as tennis courts and wading pools in good operating condition.

In September, council approved a 10-year plan to narrow the gap with a $5-million injection of cash in 2018 and another $6.8 million each year for the following nine years. The city is boosting the 2018 roads budget by $5.5 million and the winter operations budget by $4 million, but many councillors say it’s still not enough to fill the growing number of potholes and keep sidewalks clear of snow.