City of Ottawa proposes $3.76B operating budget in 2020

city hall

Mayor Jim Watson laid out the City of Ottawa’s proposed fiscal blueprint for the coming year at council Wednesday morning, with increases planned for transit and infrastructure funding.

The city is proposing a $3.76-billion operating budget for fiscal 2020, an increase of $136.8 million over 2019. The higher spending is fuelled by a proposed three per cent hike in property taxes and 1.5 per cent growth in newly assessed properties for an additional $24.9 million.

The proposed tax increase – in addition to levies for transit and police services – means the average urban homeowner would pay an extra $109 in 2020 property taxes, the typical rural homeowner would pay an additional $77 and the average commercial property owner would expect to pay $209 more in taxes next year compared with 2019.

The proposed 6.4 per cent transit levy would add $9.8 million to the city’s capital budget in 2020, bringing the total spending on areas such as water systems, sewers, transit and other transportation services up to $813.8 million. The levy is meant to offset the cancellation of a planned provincial gas tax increase aimed at funding transit services in Ontario cities.

The city is also proposing a $22.5-million increase to infrastructure renewal and maintenance on roads, sidewalks and facilities, up 18 per cent from 2019. In previous years, the city has cited a 10-year spending horizon needed to close the gap on Ottawa’s aging and degrading infrastructure; higher spending in 2020 would put the time required to close the city’s infrastructure funding gap at seven years, though the 2019 budget released last February had projected a five-year window to address Ottawa’s infrastructure needs.

The draft budget includes $7.5 million of planned spending on bus services designed to improve connectivity to the Confederation Line LRT and the reliability of OC Transpo’s service elsewhere in the city. An additional $43 million will go towards replacing old buses, while another $6 million would fund the purchase of new electric buses for OC Transpo’s fleet.

Elsewhere, the 2020 draft budget adds $15 million to the city’s affordable housing budget, the same increase as in the previous year’s spending blueprint. Ottawa’s winter operations budget is also slated to increase by 7.7 per cent to a total of $78.3 million.

Council will consider the draft budget at its meeting on Dec. 11.