Our favourite time of the year — budget estimates — is here again, with the traditional three acts: 1. The discovery that the projected tax increase to maintain the existing budget is not as high as everyone said the previous fall. 2. The wrangling over what gets cut or added, during lengthy public meetings 3. The final round, sometime in March, before it gets adopted.
The play kicks off with the preliminary budget estimates from Budget Mistress Annette Klein, out last night on the city’s website. If you want to read the whole thing (those of you brave souls who slogged through the Olympic village reports on London Inter Bank something something rates will likely find this a breeze), it’s here.
The essential points you need to know from all this:
1. They’re now looking at a six-per-cent overall tax increase, down from the 11 that everyone kept talking about during the election. That’s after some serious scraping inside city hall ($26 million worth), where I take it that Raymond Louie was working with staff to do things like trim the amount of money departments get to keep for staff turnover that provides a little cushion when those positions aren’t filled for a few months. They also benefitted from a few advantages, like plunging gas prices, which will save them $1.2 million.
2. But your residential tax increase will be higher than that because the Vision council is sticking to the plan of shifting taxes from residential to business. So they are predicting that the tax increase on the average house of $783,000 will be $128. Of that, $33 comes from the tax shift, the rest is just from the regular increase. As a result of the shift, small businesses worth the same average amount will see their taxes lowered by $155. (Of course, big businesses worth more will get a much bigger tax cut.)
3. There’s no impact from the Olympic village on property taxes this year. But there could be in coming years, if the condos don’t sell for enough to cover the loan.
Not in the report, but coming soon, says Raymond — the Vision council will be using some of the money saved to fund a few of the things promised in their platform: a mental-health advocate, a “green grant” to foster innovative environmental projects, money for an external auditor to review the city’s whole budget, and a chunk of money for child care and youth services.