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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Budget 2010

The civic administration presented the recommended budget to the board of control at the beginning of December. If all the recommendations are adopted, the resulting tax increase will be the lowest that Londoners have experienced since the beginning of the last decade.

Overall, staff are recommending a 1.8% increase on the tax levy for the coming year. This is lower than the council-approved target of 2.2% set last June. This was made possible by the fact that assessment growth (new properties coming on stream for taxation) at 1.5% was triple our expectations primarily because properties developed over the past few years are beginning to be taxed.

For the average residential taxpayer this will mean an increase of $42 for the year. Additionally, council has already passed increases to the water and wastewater budget which will cost the resident another $62 for an overall increase of $104. The final tally when these increases are added to the bill will cost the average residential taxpayer $3,164 for property taxes and water and wastewater charges. The actual cost for any particular individual will depend on the assessed value of the property and actual water usage.

What contributed to the tax increase this year?

The main contributors to the increase on the tax levy were:
  • police, fire and ambulance services at $26,
  • debt financing and financial obligations at $21,
  • regulatory services such as social services and conservation authorities at $18,
  • essential growth items such as winter maintenance at $19, and
  • boards and commissions like the library and transit at $5.
Fortunately, some of the increases were offset by the uploading of some provincial services and by assessment growth.

What isn't included in the projected tax hike?

Over the course of the year council has approved a number of items that will have an impact on the operating budget. These flow through costs have yet to be accommodated within the budget. As well, a number of service growth requests have been referred to the budget process and have yet to be approved. These include an extension of the free downtown parking programs which have reduced revenues by about $610,000 and the pilot Green Bin program that will cost another $100,000 to implement. And most councillors will have an interest in upgrading some services such as sidewalk snow plowing that could also add to the bottom line.

Nevertheless, we have made a good start. Fortunately we didn't fall into the trap of putting off implementation of the development charges; this alone will bring another $3.5 million into our reserves that won't have to be subsidized by the ratepayer. And we do owe a great thanks to the prudence of our managers and financial staff who have tightened their belts and sharpened their pencils to produce this result. All we need now is some input from you, the taxpayer. You'll get a chance to do just that when you come out to the  Public Participation meetings as follows:

  • Wednesday January 13, 2010 at City Hall in Council Chambers before the Board of Control from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. and
  • Thursday January 14, 2010 from 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm at Masonville Mall, Westmount Mall, White Oaks Mall, Argyle Mall and City Hall.
I will be at Westmount Mall. I hope to see you there! In the meantime, check the city website for details on the budget.

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