Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

Nussbaum Warns City Not To Incite Budget Cynicism

- February 4th, 2015

Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum was thumbing through a budget pamphlet during today’s council meeting and it struck him that the document essentially assumes the draft budget is a done deal. The hard copy made available today is marked “consultation version.”

City of Ottawa Budget at a Glance 2015

Nussbaum saw that the pamphlet says the “2015 budget will deliver” and it gets into the things that are in the proposed budget.

“I think a member of the public looking at this document might be under the impression that the budget is decided when you use words like ‘will deliver’ and the word ‘will’ is used throughout the document,” Nussbaum said, adding that he only saw the words “proposes to” once in the short time he had the hard copy document.

(To be fair, I counted multiple references to “proposes” after taking a longer look at it).

Nussbaum said the city has to be careful with these things to not “incite cynicism into this process.”

There certainly is a perception that the draft budget is, really, the final document with councillors having little wiggle room to change anything. It’s not easy getting residents out to budget consultations.

“It’s important to be careful with our language,” Nussbaum advised.

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Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling, on Instagram at @JonathanWilling and at ottawasun.com.

Watson Already Asking For Council’s Support On Budget

- February 3rd, 2015

The city will table the 2015 draft budget tomorrow and Mayor Jim Watson has already started drumming up support from councillors, particularly with regards to the property tax target.

This is an e-mail he sent councillors today, providing a small sneak-peak of what the priorities will be in the budget and, quite frankly, the rest of the four-year term.

Dear Council Colleague,

I want to thank you for our recent meeting with respect to Budget 2015.

We had a very useful exchange of ideas and your input is appreciated by me, and also by the senior staff and staff from my team who joined us to hear your thoughts on budget priorities for 2015 and for the full 2015 to 2018 mandate. As a Councillor your role is critical to ensure that ward priorities are identified so that they can be considered for inclusion in either the budget or the term of Council priorities process.
 
We are able to effectively manage and table Budget 2015 on February 4th in large part because of the decisions and actions of the past few years. Over that time we introduced a more disciplined budget process in order to get a firmer handle on the City’s finances. Concurrently, we made significant investments in city-wide and ward- specific infrastructure improvements, including road resurfacing needs. We also built and opened a number of new community facilities across the city, including the redeveloped Lansdowne Park – a city-wide asset in which we can all take great pride – the Kanata Recreation Complex, the Minto Recreation Complex in Barrhaven, the François Dupuis Recreation Centre and the Richcraft Sensplex in the East.
 
Budget 2015 will propose to limit the average increase on the residential property tax rate to 2%, consistent with the direction unanimously approved at Council on December 10th, 2014.
 
While each Councillor will be interested in the budget specifics for their ward, it is worth remembering that there are many city-wide projects that benefit multiple wards. Thanks to our strong collaboration, staff have been working to ensure that best efforts are applied to accommodate as many of your ward’s priorities as possible, either in Budget 2015 or in the next three years of this mandate.
 
It is also important to remember that broad funding envelopes for Term of Council priorities (operating and capital) will be included in Budget 2015 and this funding will be crucial to finalizing Council Strategic Initiatives later this year. While some Councillors identified strategic initiatives in our discussions, all members of Council will be engaged in the Strategic Initiatives process in the coming months.  Some of the initiatives I am aware of that will be included for consideration are increased funding for:
 
·        social housing;
·        economic development initiatives;
·        pedestrian and cycling safety initiatives and infrastructure;
·        improved recreation services; and
·        Ottawa 2017 celebrations.
 
Thank you again for your active and ongoing involvement on Budget 2015. As Mayor of the City of Ottawa, I am committed to working with you to ensure that we find the right balance in protecting important municipal services, supporting job creation, enhancing the city’s transit and transportation infrastructure and maintaining a vibrant and prosperous City in a time of economic instability.
 
I hope you will concur that maintaining an affordable city also remains a central goal of our municipal government. In this spirit, I encourage members of Council to honour the commitment we made on December 10th to maintain a 2% cap on increases in municipal taxation.
 
I look forward to working with you as we complete the 2015 Budget over the course of the coming weeks.
 
Sincerely,
 
Jim Watson, Mayor
City of Ottawa

Reporters also asked Watson about the budget in a scrum this morning.

“The budget in my opinion is going to be both progressive and affordable. We’re trying to find that balance between ensuring taxes remain at the 2% level, at the same time providing good public services,” Watson said. “You’re not going to see any kind of slashing and burning approach. I think you’ve seen the last four budgets are steady as she goes and I’m looking forward to presenting that tomorrow.”

Keep tabs on ottawasun.com for Budget Day developments.

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Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling, on Instagram at @JonathanWilling and at ottawasun.com.

Police Face Finding More Savings For 2% Promise

- September 22nd, 2014

Mayor Jim Watson’s 2% tax cap promise could throw a curveball at the Ottawa Police Service, which has been planning for a 2.5% hike each year until at least 2017.

From the 2014 police budget:

“We always present a four-year outlook and that four-year outlook projected a 2.5% increase in our police budget to deal with the pressures that we have, but at the same time delivering on a $2.5-million efficiency as well,” Chief Charles Bordeleau told reporters today.

Bordeleau didn’t say that the police force will try to get the rate hike down to 2%. The service continues to find savings, Bordeleau said, but we all know that if Watson wins the election, police will have to reassess their spending plans.

This all might sound familiar.

Police, under former chief Vern White, had to rejig their budget after Watson won the 2010 election with a 2.5% promise.

So how would police do it this time?

For one, looking at more uniform positions that can be held by civilians.

And the force is trying out new ways to handle recurring calls, such as crashes. Now police have collision reporting centres.

There’s also an interesting matter of the police force’s hiring plans starting in 2015. An extra 23 officers were to join the service each year until at least 2017, but Bordeleau said police brass are taking a look at their forecasts to see if it’s necessary. He didn’t draw a line between the Watson 2% promise and the hiring analysis, but holding off on new cops would certainly provide the necessary budget relief.

There are some statistics and reports pulling the force in different directions. A Fraser Institute study released today put Ottawa-Gatineau police in the “understaffed” category. But then we have evidence that Ottawa police’s emergency calls are decreasing.

On top of all this, arbitration awards could throw financial plans off track.

Watson would have a good idea what the police’s requirements are as mayor and a member of the police services board.

I’m not predicting any drama with the 2015 police budget in December if Watson wins re-election. Police have shown they can find savings and I don’t think Bordeleau is the kind of chief who wants to poke City Hall over money.

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Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at ottawasun.com.

Companies Pony Up For Councillors’ Events

- April 1st, 2014

It’s always useful to know what companies are sponsoring big community parties thrown by councillors. Here’s a compilation from the reports on 2013 council expenses, which was the basis of today’s story in the Sun.

As an aside, it’s interesting that only a few councillors pursued sponsors to offset the costs for throwing parties. These are all of the councillors listed on the public disclosure with events naming sponsors. Other councillors threw pricey summer barbecues or picnics or whatnot using only taxpayer funds.

(We can’t forget the sponsors for Mayor Jim Watson’s protocol-managed events, which can be found here)

College Coun. Rick Chiarelli’s New Year’s Eve Party

Ikea Canada $8,000
Leikin Management $2,000
Brady’s Pool & Spa Care $199
Scotiabank (Pinecrest) $199
KNT Nails & Spa $199
Scotiabank (Bells Corner) $199

Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson’s Kanata North Picnic

1025 Canadian Shield Ave. $2,000
Minto Communities $1,000
Richcraft Homes $1,000
Urbandale Corp. $500
Broccolini Holdings $500
Kanata Research Park $500
Novatech Engineering $500
Kanata Entertainment Holding $500

Alta Vista Coun. Peter Hume’s Annual Corn Roast

Ottawa Train Yards $10,000

Breakfast with Santa

Urbandale Corp. $8,000

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Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at ottawasun.com.

Watson’s Call For Arbitration Changes Ahead Of Sunshine List Release

- March 28th, 2014

Mayor Jim Watson knew what was coming in the 2013 Sunshine List (released today, with more than 1,000 police employees on it), that’s why he wrote to Premier Kathleen Wynne a couple of days ago calling for changes to the province’s arbitration system, as he has done before.

Watson calls it “urgent” that the province does something. Municipalities want a task force.

Meanwhile, the minority Liberals and the opposition PCs just can’t seem to agree on how to go about doing it. Still.

Watson Letter to Wynne March 26 2014