Ottawa city council sticks to 2% tax hike after ‘surprise’ $10M appears

City Hall

The city will allocate millions of additional dollars for infrastructure while sticking to Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s election pledge to hold tax increases to two per cent thanks to an unexpected budget surplus.

The surprise announcement at the start of Wednesday’s council meeting scuttled an expected showdown between the mayor and a group of eight councillors who wanted to raise property taxes by an additional 0.5 per cent to pay for infrastructure repairs.

Despite some councillors complaining that it was “a bit blindsiding” to receive the information the day of the budget, the mayor’s proposal was adopted unanimously. Following that vote, Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper withdrew the controversial additional 0.5 per cent tax measure.

City treasurer Marian Simulik said the additional tax revenue comes primarily from higher assessed property values on new construction and buildings that have been upgraded or improved, a process by Ontario’s Municipal Property Assessment Corp. known as “supplementary assessments.”

Figures released in November say the two per cent tax will mean an urban homeowner with a property assessed at $404,000 will pay an additional $58 in property taxes next year, bringing their total bill to $2,977. When transit levies and garbage fees are included, that same homeowner will pay $3,724, an increase of $76.

On the non-residential side, the owner of a commercial property assessed at $460,000 will see their total bill – including property taxes and transit levies – rise $163 to reach $7,981.

The 2018 budget passed by a vote of 19-5. Among the dissenters was Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans, who had been among the more vocal proponents of greater infrastructure spending.

“Residents understand what we’re facing,” she said prior to the final budget vote. “A two per cent number plugged into the 2018 budget comes with consequences in 2019 and beyond.”