London taxpayers face budget bomb from land ambulance service
LONDON, Ont. -- Londoners are facing a four per cent tax hike in 2020 according to a new budget document.
Earlier this year, city council approved an average annual tax increase target of 2.7 per cent in the 2020-23 multi-year budget, but provincial downloading and higher than expected budget requests from boards and commissions have pushed the annual increase to 3.2 per cent.
A 2.7 per cent tax increase represents an $82 increase on the average property tax bill, a 3.2 per cent increase represents about $96.
City hall’s budget chair, Josh Morgan, isn’t willing to consider a four per cent increase to tax bills in 2020, “I’m not going to accept a four per cent increase next year. I think that is a level that is not going to be tolerated by the citizens of London.”
Most external boards and commissions that receive funding from city hall were asked to limit average annual budget increases to 1.5 per cent over the four-year period, but only Tourisn London, Eldon House and RBC Place London met that target.
The highest percentage increase comes from city hall’s share of land ambulance service which is overseen by Middesex County.
Middlesex-London EMS is seeking a 32.4 per cent increase in 2020, averaging 17.3 per cent per year over city hall’s multi-year budget term.
But in an interesting wrinkle, the CAO of Middlesex County, Bill Rayburn, tells CTV News that the land ambulance service is not seeking a 32.4 per cent increase next year from London city hall.
By the county’s calculations the increase is half of that, “Our number is 18.8 per cent budget increase year over year, and we met with the representatives of city hall, the administration last Friday, and we were able to move that number down to 15.9 percent in terms of an increase year-over-year.”
Rayburn points to significant budget pressures outside the county's control - including offload delays at hospitals, a 10.3 per cent projected increase in call volumes year-over-year, and new legislation regarding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“We are very proud of the service, we think it is by any comparator the most efficient and effective service in Ontario.”
The mayor has called a special meeting of city council’s Strategic Priorities & Policy Committee on Nov. 5 to address the budget crunch.
Morgan adds that unlike other boards, city hall can’t force Middlesex-London EMS to accept less, “At the end of the day this is an area where there is a service contract, and a mandated service, our ability to impact that is very little to none.”
City staff recommend inviting representatives of Middlesex-London EMS to a future meeting to explain the budget increase.
They also recommend asking other boards and commissions to provide a list of possible service cuts to bring budget increases within the target.