Last night, Kingston’s new City Council approved its first operating budget keeping the municipal tax rate increase at 3.39 per cent.
“Council took a very considered approach in its deliberations and City staff was very responsive in answering their questions. City staff members are to be commended for keeping their budgets keyed to the rate of inflation and other pressures faced by the City,” says Mayor Mark Gerretsen, who notes that the new Council passed the budget three months into its mandate.
In addition to the 1 per cent annual increase for ongoing capital infrastructure investment, Council approved a 0.5 per cent investment for Cultural Services to fund the initiatives outlined in the Cultural Master Plan approved by the previous Council.
“A strong cultural sector is vital to ensuring Kingston’s sustainable future and this investment is aimed at strengthening this pillar of sustainability. We would also expect this investment to pay off in generating business and tourism revenues associated with appropriately-supported cultural initiatives,” says Gerretsen.
The municipal portion of the property tax bill supports services provided by City departments as well as external agencies and boards, including waste and recycling collection and disposal, policing, fire and emergency management, Kingston Transit and Kingston Access Services, road and parks maintenance, affordable housing, social assistance, childcare programs, City recreational facilities and programs, Kingston Frontenac Public Library, the Grand Theatre, Rideaucrest and Fairmount long-term care facilities, licensing, bylaw enforcement and building inspection. In all, the City of Kingston manages over 45 different businesses.
The approved budget includes additional costs related to service enhancements and growth related service requirements, as approved through previous motions of Council/Committees and introduced throughout the 2010 year, to address fire services, roads, sidewalks and parks maintenance, recreation and leisure services and transit services as well as external agency service pressures.
The approved budget also includes a pay increase to the City’s 12 councillors and the Mayor, as approved by the last council and representing a total of $145,000.
Kingstonians should note that their property tax bill is made up of both a municipal and an educational component. The municipal tax component is based on Council’s adoption of the annual budget. The education tax rate is set by the Province of Ontario and is billed and collected by the municipality as part of the total property tax bill. The educational component represents approximately 17 per cent of a total residential property tax bill and approximately 41 per cent of a total commercial property tax bill. The City recently received notice from the Province that education tax rates, while still in draft form, are expected to generally remain at prior year levels.
When the Province’s share of the tax bill increases less than the municipal share, then the overall impact to a property tax payer will be lower than the municipal rate. Therefore, the total property tax increase, including both the municipal and educational components, translates into an additional $41 a year on a $100,000 residential property assessment, an overall increase of less than 3 per cent. On a $100,000 commercial property assessment, the total property tax increase translates into an additional $80 a year, an overall increase of approximately 2 per cent.
While the City sets the tax rate, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation is responsible for determining the assessment values of properties in Ontario.
The 2011 capital budget (and 2012-2014 for roads-related infrastructure and certain projects spanning multiple years) was approved by Council on February 15, 2011 and represented a total of $300 million of capital projects, including utility capital works.
The budget is the result of an extensive corporate planning process based on the City’s corporate strategic plan. It was developed in coordination with achieving Kingston’s goal of becoming Canada’s most sustainable City, as outlined in the Sustainable Kingston Plan (www.sustainablekingston.ca) of which the City is a Community Partner.
The City’s Strategic Plan and 2011 work plans (at www.cityofkingston.ca/organization) organize City projects in support of the four pillars of sustainability – environmental, social, economic and cultural.
For further breakdowns and information associated with the budget and property taxes, please see www.cityofkingston.ca/budget.
Release source: City of Kingston | Photo courtesy Wikipedia