Council inching towards steep tax hike

City Budget: Day 5 of 2020-23

With time for deliberations running short, Council members are wrestling with some of the toughest budget decisions.

Day five of 2020-23 Budget talks at city hall has bogged down as politicians feel increasingly squeezed between investing in community-based projects and showing financial restraint.

Fanshawe College’s request for $3 million to help fund construction of its $58 million Innovation Village on its Oxford Street campus faced political opposition.

Councillor Phil Squire shared blunt advice for colleagues worried about a tax increase over 4 per cent, “Occasionally you have to say no.”

A motion by Councillor Michael Van Holst proposed a reduction to $1.5 million. The money would come from city hall’s economic development reserve fund, and not impact the tax rate.

“I encourage my colleagues to continue to support innovation.” Councillor Mo Salih said the investment in Fanshawe College directly links to council’s strategic plan.

But Councillor Arielle Kayabaga stressed priorities.

“Don’t know if this is a priority. So my vote is going to be no. I’m looking to get through other budget cases later.”

She added that she values the college’s project, but wants to see where the budget stands at the end of deliberations before making a final decision.

The London Community Foundation’s Back to the River Project at the forks is also seeking municipal funding from the same reserve fund.

City Treasurer Anna Lisa Barbon said if both projects receive their full funding requests, the economic development account would be left with just $150,000 in 2022.

Several councillors indicated that they would like to debate other investments including Back to the River before making a decision about Fanshawe College’s Innovation Village.

After more than an hour of debate, a motion by Deputy Mayor Jesse Helmer hit the pause button. Council voted 10-4 to defer a decision until after all other Business Cases for new spending are resolved.

Currently, the average annual tax increase each year (2020 to 2023) stands at 4.2% if council approves all remaining Business Cases for new spending.

Also up for consideration today, the water & wastewater budgets.

Council will pause deliberations at 6pm for a public participation meeting.

Follow @DNewcombeCTV for decisions as they happen.

More to come. 

CITY BUDGET: Council sets Course to build a new city hall building. Approve $13M for consulting/architecture over next 4 years. There’s a $125.5M placeholder in 2024-27 Budget. Staff say longterm efficiency, energy savings, & reduced leasing costs justify project. #LdnOnt pic.twitter.com/1eZBl5IVMY

— Daryl Newcombe (@DNewcombeCTV) February 13, 2020