Budget talks end without achieving tax freeze
Discussions at London’s city hall wrapped up Monday night with a projected property tax increase of 1.2 per cent or about $30 for the average homeowner in 2013.
But Mayor Joe Fontana still believes he can keep his election promise not to raise taxes before the budget must be approved at the end of February.
“I can’t say what may happen between now and the 28th, you know that there have been a number of questions referred to the administration.”
But councillors like Nancy Branscombe are concerned the city’s reserve funds and budget surplus may be used to get there again this year.
“If I were a betting person I’d be betting we’re going after reserves…If they move to raid from reserves like they did last year then I won’t be supporting the budget again,” she says.
Near the end of budget deliberations, city staff was asked about the size of the 2012 budget surplus and the amounts being contributed this year to several reserve funds.
In 2012, council reduced its contribution to reserve accounts by $6 million just before the budget was finalized to achieve a tax freeze.
The gap to reach zero for the 2013 budget is $5.6 million.
Already on Monday night, $2.5 million proposed as a contribution to an economic development fund was diverted to tax reduction.
Branscombe says “I don’t want to get to zero this year at the expense of having huge increases in the next couple of years and leaving that legacy for a future council.”
But Fontana maintains “People didn’t even think we could get to 1.2, so let’s wait and see. I want to hear from the public on Wednesday.”
People can have their say on proposed cuts and spending initiatives in the final public participation meeting on Wednesday.
Then on February 28th council must decide if 1.2 per cent is low enough, or if they again can make a last minute push to zero.