Councillors look to reduce 'budget fakery' with $1 a month infrastructure levy

Councillors look to reduce 'budget fakery' with $1 a month infrastructure levy

Eight city councillors have a plan that would see homeowners pay one dollar more a month on their tax bills to fix crumbling roads and bridge a massive funding gap to maintain city infrastructure.

The group proposes a one-time 0.5 per cent infrastructure levy, which translates to a $12 increase to the typical homeowner's tax bill.

They say the quality of Ottawa's roads, parks and recreation centres are in the balance, and with a $70 million annual gap in infrastructure maintenance spending, they can't wait until after the election to fix it.

"I think there are a number of us who owe it to both future and current taxpayers to try and bridge that gap," said Coun. Tobi Nussbaum.

The eight councillors who signed on to the proposal are:

- Kitchissippi Ward Coun. Jeff Lieper, who plans to formally make the motion.

- Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward Coun. Nussbaum.

- Gloucester-Southgate Ward Coun. Diane Deans.

- Somerset Ward Coun. Catherine McKenney.

- Kanata North Ward Coun. Marianne Wilkinson.

- Rideau-Vanier Ward Coun. Mathieu Fleury.

- Capital Ward Coun. David Chernushenko.

- College Ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli.

Over the course of the budget debate, most councillors have noted the deteriorating state of the city's roads, and a growing pressure from residents to address it. 

Shortly after the budget was drafted in November, Chiarelli denounced it as a "fake budget," alleging it was an attempt to fudge numbers and underfund priorities like snow removal and road maintenance in order to make tax increases appear less burdensome.

He said the infrastructure levy is an attempt to "remove the fakery" from the budget.

The motion will be tabled at council's debate next week when the draft budget is set to be finalized and approved.

Mayor Jim Watson brushed off the proposal earlier on Thursday, saying the budget as it stands already tries to strike a balance between the work that needs to be done and what the city can afford.

"The notion that one member of council wants to raise the property tax rate by 0.5 per cent for all of their priorities — well then why don't you do it with 24 members of council and each one probably has a series of different priorities? It just doesn't make any sense, we have to live within our means," he said.

Watson said residents he speaks with have told him to hold the line on taxes and he said he has a strong mandate to follow through on that.