Budget talks continue as tax increase seems more likely
London councillors met to discuss the budget on Thursday as the city seems to be moving closer to a tax increase of just under two per cent.
Up for debate were the fire department, municipal housing and a move to provide councillors with more administrative support.
Despite some contentious debates, in the end some changes to city services were decided.
The London Fire Department got a little more, but it wasn’t as much as requested. It was handed a one per cent increase, compared to a request for 7.7 per cent.
That translates to just over $500,000 instead of a $4-million bump.
Fire Chief John Kobarda says the decision won’t change fire response in the city, and he’s in favour of a plan to look into the department’s expenses in search of more savings.
“We’ve been doing it all along but this will let us step back and look at the entire system again. Our biggest thing is to be able maintain service delivery.”
The committee did approve over $100,000 for more support workers for councillors, meaning hirings already discussed will move forward.
But while some say the help is needed, others argue the optics are bad.
Councillor Nancy Branscombe says “At other times it might be nice to have them for other work that we’d like them to do, but at this time, when we are asking firefighters, police, our departments, our boards and commissions to cut back and make do with what they have, is not the time for council to add $200,000 to our budget to hire two people.”
A move to use surplus money to avoid cuts at the London and Middlesex Housing Corporation - a cost of about $500,000 - passed amid some objection.
Also passed, the first portion of the Capital Budget – The Lifecycle – with 100 per cent support.