London council shaves about $24 off property tax increase
Londoners will dig deeper this year to cover their property taxes and water/wastewater bills.
On Thursday, marathon budget deliberations concluded with a proposed tax rate increase of 3.1 per cent, equal to about $98 more this year on the average home assessed at $241,000.
That’s down from the 2023 Budget Update’s starting point of 3.9 per cent ($122).
Barely two months into their term, London’s eight rookie councillors made their presence felt during their first experience with municipal budgeting.
Debates were frequently dominated by questions, comments, and motions from several of London’s first-time councillors seeking to shape municipal spending and programs this year.
“Sidewalk maintenance is a question of equity,” argued Coun. Sam Trosow during the most contentious debate of the day-long meeting. “Sidewalk maintenance is a question of accessibility — not to mention mobility.”
Politicians sparred over a proposed reduction to sidewalk snowplowing that would reverse last term’s decision to deploy plows at 5 cm of snow.
If approved, the amendment would revert sidewalk plow deployment to the provincial minimum of 8 cm of snow.
“I’m not going to be afraid to recognize when something I championed hasn’t worked out the way I hoped it would,” admitted Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis.
Lewis added that complaints continued after the service improvement, in part, because the city can never achieve bare sidewalks needed to satisfy everyone.
However, several rookie councillors flexed their political muscle.
“With all the discussions we’ve been having about accessibility in our community, I will not be supporting a reduction,” asserted Coun. Skylar Franke.
Led by rookies Franke, Trosow, Rahman, Ferreira, Pribil, and McAlister the criteria for sidewalk snowplowing will remain unchanged— by a 9 to 5 vote.
“We owe it to all Londoners, but in particular our seniors and those with mobility issues,” said Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen.
Council grumbled, but a funding agreement required the city to pay another $1.76 million to support the rising call volume and offload delays experienced by Middlesex-London Paramedic Service ambulances.
A $200,000 reduction was made to aesthetic flowerbed planting.
However, council balked at slashing $250,000 from a playground program for children.
A $3 million grant was approved to support construction of the London Middlesex Humane Society’s new facility this spring.
Withdrawn from a reserve fund, the grant will not impact the tax rate.
“It can be drawn down on a pace that makes sense to the construction timelines that the humane society has,” explained Mayor Josh Morgan.
To curb the tax rate increase, council reduced this year’s contribution towards closing the infrastructure gap by $475,000.
Settling on a 3.1 per cent tax rate increase, the average London household will pay a combined $128 more (property tax $98, annual water bill $13, annual sewer bill $17) to city hall this year.
“It’s well below inflation and below what other municipalities are passing. I know a few have passed budgets today in the mid-four percent (range),” Morgan tells CTV News. “I know Londoners will always say we oboes you could do better, but we also have inflationary pressures and get the services up and running that Londoners expect.”
The 2023 Budget Update will be finalized by council on Feb. 14.
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