Londoners looking at potential tax increase of 3.2-4.5 per cent

With provincial downloading accounting for one-third of London’s overall proposed budget, councillors have some tough decisions as they finalize the four-year budget over the next two months.

City staff tabled the document on Tuesday afternoon during a meeting of the strategic priorities and policy committee (SPPC).

The budget aims to cover municipal costs between 2020 and 2023.

“This is going to be a budget about decision making,” Ward 7 Coun. Josh Morgan, who also serves as the city’s budget chair.

“We always have more than enough positive things to spend money on and limited resources to do so.”

What started as an initial increase of 2.7 per cent now could be as high as 4.6 per cent.

A minimum increase of 3.2 per cent is needed to maintain the already existing city services and make up for the loss in provincial funding. The increase in taxes will reach upwards of 4.5 per cent when you factor in additional investments for things like housings and waste management.

What this means for the taxpayer is an average of an extra $94 a year with a 3.2 per cent tax increase, $113 a year at 3.8, and $138 a year with 4.5 per cent if all of the proposed budget points are approved.

“A lot of the stuff in there is to maintain our existing service levels so if at the end of the day if council chooses not to keep that amount of funding there will be tough decisions around how much to reduce the services that are there,” said city treasurer Anna Lisa Barbon.

“The issue here is trying to balance care and cost… and the needs of our community,” Mayor Ed Holder said.

City staff were able to find a 0.7 per cent reduction, which is already worked into the numbers presented at the meeting tonight.

Councillors will also have to decide on 25 business cases, some of which have separate items that require additional funding to support the 2019-2023 strategic plan.

Of the 25, city staff have classified 16 of them totalling just over $112-million as priorities and 13 for additional consideration at $70.6 million.

The most extensive line item is implementing a 60 per cent Waste Diversion Action Plan for $17.6 million.

Other funding items include funding for things like Public Library Collection, Street Light improvements and Pubic Housings.

A lack of affordable housing is an ongoing topic of discussion in London. $5.2-million is slated for maintaining and developing new affordable housing options within the community.

The city’s agencies, boards and commissions (ABC) who submitted budgets over the targets were asked at the last budget meeting to review their initial submissions find cuts. Those potential reductions will be included in the report to the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee on Jan. 7, 2020.

Tomorrow a survey allowing residents to give input on the budget will be available online. Londoner’s responses will be taken into consideration before councillors make a final decision on the budget.

Residents can also give input at budget open houses on Jan. 11 and 15, 2020, at the Goodwill Industries on Horton Street. Londoners are also invited to a public participation meeting at city hall on Jan. 23.

More details can be found on the city’s website dedicated to receiving public input.

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