The City of Ottawa Tables 2024 Draft Budget

City Council tabled the draft 2024 budget for the City of Ottawa. Despite his customary hand-off approach, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe gave a long speech on the city’s financial master plan for the next year. He began by noting that in the months leading up to the budget, he took the time to knock on doors around town to hear directly from residents what they hoped to see in the 2024 budget. Sutcliffe noted that among the top concerns were more public recreation space, improvements to parks, as well as improvements for community facilities, including arenas like the Tony Graham Recreation Complex in Kanata.

OC Transpo will be seeing their funding will also go up. Sutcliffe said that the city has found $10 million in efficiencies at OC Transpo that can be reinvested into making the public transit system more reliable. However, he was candid that the shift away from the downtown core by federal workers and problems with OC Transpo has seen a 30 percent decline in ridership and a dip in fare revenues. Despite this, he pledged to continue investing in the transit system to ensure it works properly.

Sutcliffe addressed why property tax increases are being kept locked at 2.5 percent while inflation has risen. He said everyone is “struggling with rising costs” and that the costs for the city have not risen as fast as household costs. Therefore, he is prioritizing keeping taxes lower for residents.

The mayor also addressed affordable housing. He pointed out that, for the first time, the city has more affordable units than shelter beds. Still, there was a long way to go to resolve the city’s homelessness crisis. He criticized the federal and provincial governments for not playing a more significant role in solving the issue, noting that he continuously has to go to higher levels of government to ask for more funding. Sutcliffe concluded his remarks by reminding the councillors that they work for the citizens, who must be their top priority.

City Manager Wendy Stephenson spoke of how the draft budget was created. She explained that Council’s priority list, city staff involvement and stakeholders and residents consultations were a big part of the process.

Cyril Rodgers, Chief Financial Officer of the city’s Finance and Corporate Services Department, unveiled that the city has an online draft budget tool that residents can use to look at the proposed budget to better understand where funds are being allocated. He explained that it makes “Key details accessible to the public in a more interactive and transparent manner.”

All budget documents are available on the city website, and hard copies will be at Ottawa Public Libraries. Rodgers also pointed out that the draft budget is just that and that the city would have budgetary consultations throughout November and December, which will continue until the budget is voted on. The budgetary highlights include:

• $6.27 million will go towards fleet optimization for city vehicles ranging from cars to road ploughs to ensure that “efficient service” is carried out.

• The total budget for the city for 2024 will be $4.6 billion.

•  The Ottawa Police Service budget will increase by $9 million to $410 million from $401 million in 2023.

•  Community and Social Services will account for over a fifth of the budget at 21.1 percent or $975 million.

•  Transit will account for $731 million or 15.9 percent of total expenditures, with much of the funding coming from the province or the federal government.

•  The city will pay $1.4 billion of this year’s budget, with $701.4 million coming from reserves — $353.6 million will be in planned debt, and $178.5 million will come from development charges cash and debt.

•  An additional $24.9 million has been added to open O-Train Lines 2 and 4.

•  $98 million has been allocated for the resurfacing roads in rural areas.

Consultations and public delegations on the budget will be heard until the budget is voted on in December. Make sure to make your voice heard if you have concerns about how money is being spent in the city.