Kitchener council approves lowest budget increase in a decade
KITCHENER -- The City of Kitchener passed its lowest budget increase in 10 years on Monday.
The tax increase dropped to .94 per cent, down from the 1.1 per cent increase proposed in the planned budget.
Most of the savings came from the decision to delay funding for the Huron Brigadoon Community Centre until 2022. That saved the city $255,000, dropping the tax increase by .19 per cent.
However, council did approve a budget increase for community trails and traffic calming measures. More funding for community trails is expected in the 2022 budget.
The .94 per cent increase will cost the average homeowner $11. Water and utility gas rates will also increase by $11 each.
Finance Committee Chair Scott Davey said maintaining service levels was an important aspect in this year's budget, making sure to keep increases low for residents struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also said reserves will decline, but will hopefully increase in the future.
"It's definitely been a tumultuous year," Davey said. "We've had to fundamentally change, like most corporations, how we run the city because of COVID-19. I'm very happy that we're able to bring forth a budget that's combined impact is the lowest residents have seen in more than 10 years." Davey said the city will be able to continue offering services residents rely on.
The library budget was also approved on Monday. Davey said a surplus from 2020 helped cover a deficit of $133,000.
“Council and staff have worked hard over many years to approve responsible budgets and that has helped ensure our 2021 budget reflects a responsible approach to responding to the realities of Covid-19,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic in a news release. “The budget we approved today not only maintains valued programs and services for our community but also ensures we build back better through strategic priorities such as our new Equity, Anti-Racism & Indigenous Initiatives team, investments in active transportation and our Make It Kitchener 2.0 economic development strategy.”
The city said it delayed $21 million in capital projects, freezing discretionary spending and temporarily laying off some staff.
The city also received funding from the provincial and federal governments through Safe Restart Funding, which helped address shortfalls in 2020.