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Council approves 8.7% tax hike despite concerns over police budget

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London city council approved its four-year budget Thursday, but not without attempts from various councillors to reduce the controversial police budget request.

One motion on the issue was shot down before it was even heard.

Coun. Anna Hopkins revisited a recommendation from a previous budget committee to reduce the police budget by 5 per cent.

Before that motion was voted on, Coun. Corinne Rahman introduced an amendment for a larger reduction in vehicle and equipment investments.

“I did get a lot of pushback,” said Hopkins. “I think, because it related to reducing that tax levy [for] overall business cases.”

“We know that this business case – P29 – was one business case that pointed to additional sources of funding at the federal level that could be accessed by police,” said Rahman.

Coun. Susan Stephenson said, “This is not a want-list or a wish-list. This is what the board has brought forward saying is required. And this need to chip away at it (funding), is like a jealousy kind of thing. Other boards had to do it, we should do it.”

After a lengthy debate, the motions were narrowly shot down 8-7.

“I thought if, perhaps, council had a change of heart, it would help to offset and create opportunity to fund some of those other priorities,” said Rahman.

The police budget includes the hiring of new officers, body-worn cameras, a training facility, and a new light-armoured vehicle.

Mayor Josh Morgan said the focus on the robust public safety portion of the budget is overshadowing other significant investments.

“This budget is also about a historic investment in London transit. It’s a significant increase in our investment that was already in last year’s multi-year budget on housing. It’s also new money for organizations like the library and the arts,” said Morgan.

There were 18 changes to the budget through the amendment process. The mayor said he will be making a formal announcement tomorrow, essentially putting the budget into effect.

London’s 2024 property tax hike is officially 8.7 per cent, or about $286 for the average homeowner. The “average” house was assessed at $252,000.

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