City of Ottawa on track to turn budget surplus

Higher property tax revenues, unfilled staff positions and a multimillion-dollar dividend from Hydro Ottawa are giving the city’s finances a major boost this year.

The city says it expects to record a $6.6 million surplus in what it calls tax-supported and rate-supported areas, which include the majority of city services and operations and account for approximately 70 per cent of the municipality’s overall budget.

Those areas recorded a deficit of $41.8 million last year.

The tax-supported areas that includes parks, fire and paramedic services as well as city administration had a surplus of $3.1 million as of June 30. That’s the end of the second quarter of the city’s fiscal year.

Rate-supported services such as water and sewer accounts had a surplus of $1.65 million on June 30.

“I am very pleased to see that efficiency measures implemented in the 2016 budget are proving to be effective and that this mid-year surplus will improve further by the end of the year,” Mayor Jim Watson said in a statement. “We are always looking for smarter, more prudent and more responsible ways to provide services to residents and respect their tax dollars.”

Much of the surplus was credited to what the city calls “non departmental accounts,” according to a report by city staff.

That includes $4.2 million in additional tax revenue generated from assessment growth.

As well, the city saved $2 million by eliminating 36 vacant positions and received $2.4 million in additional dividends from Hydro Ottawa.

The city also made $1.9 million more than it expected from investment income, penalties and interest and revenues from tickets issued for provincial offences.

The surplus in the rate-supported area was credited to lower operation costs and higher water bills due to the dry summer weather.

The tax-supported areas don’t include some of the city’s biggest departments. Police services, the library, public health and transit have separate budgets that account for almost 30 per cent of all city spending.

The police service’s financial status update was presented in July, it forecasted a small surplus.

The transit commission’s financial status update is scheduled to be presented in on Sept. 21.