Limit the property tax increase to between 2 per cent and 2.5 per cent for 2023 and 2024, targeting the same level for 2025 and 2026.
Launch a strategic review of existing city spending, which has not been conducted since the early 2000s.
Commit to no new types of taxes over the next four years.
Reduce recreation fees for children and families by 10%.
Freeze all transit fares for 2023.
Invest only in priority areas that serve all of Ottawa, such as improving the quality of our roads, properly funding emergency services, and investing in programs and services for our most vulnerable.
Ottawa is in an affordability crisis, and the economic climate is incredibly uncertain. These new pressures require a fresh perspective at City Hall that will work to get value for taxpayer dollars.
The same political approaches that have taken place at City Hall for the last twenty years will not work, nor will the same approaches to managing people’s money.
Sutcliffe is the only candidate in this race who can bring a balanced and responsible approach to our city’s finances that respects taxpayers throughout Ottawa.
Sensible investments in priority areas without expensive commitments on non-essential projects
Experience as a small business owner, corporate executive, and board member in delivering and managing fiscally responsible budgets
Experience as a board chair and board member providing fiscal accountability and oversight with more than a dozen not-for-profit organizations including the Ottawa Board of Trade, Invest Ottawa, Run Ottawa, Algonquin College, and more.
At a time when costs are rising rapidly, residents deserve a serious plan to make life more affordable for everyone.
Families are stretched to make ends meet, and are worried about predictability of both taxes and services.
Vulnerable residents must have assurance that their Mayor and Council are supporting them, by making strategic investments in social programs and initiatives.
Homeowners are experiencing rising mortgage costs, and are concerned their property tax rates may do the same under new leadership at City Hall.
Renters are already seeing their monthly payments and other costs rise and know that if property taxes climb, the costs will be handed down to them.
Seniors worry about how they will cover rising rental costs and property taxes on their fixed incomes.
People on low or fixed incomes are struggling with rising inflation, and want to know that the services they rely on will continue to be accessible.
For those who want to see more reliable city services.
A balanced budgeting approach that puts the interests of all residents of Ottawa at the centre of decision making - not special interests or politicians. No investments in non-priority areas and no reckless service cuts that residents depend on.
$4 million in new, annual funding for community service agencies to become a point of first contact and support to those suffering from substance use disorder and mental illness.
Of the $25 million promised for winter clearing improvements, as well as for repairs to roads, sidewalks and cycling, a portion will be covered by the rising federal gas tax, provincial grants and from cancelling low-priority capital projects that have never started or are in progress but halted with no plan for resumption. Reserves will not be depleted for this purpose.
$5 million to freeze transit fees for one year.
$2 million annually to reduce recreation fees for children and youth by 10 per cent.
$1.2 million in additional annual funding for traffic calming for safe streets, sidewalks and bike lanes
For those concerned about taxes and spending:
Limit the property tax increase to between 2 per cent and 2.5 per cent for 2023 and 2024, targeting the same level for 2025 and 2026.
Launch a strategic review of existing city spending which has not been conducted since the early 2000s.
Commit to no new forms of taxation over the next four years - no land transfer tax and no new special revenue tools that cost residents more when your household budgets are already being squeezed.
Balanced leadership that prioritizes the needs of the whole city, rather than expensive plans that only benefit some, such as $250 million for bike lanes on borrowed money at increasingly high rates of interest.
|Budget Pressures and Measures||Expenditures ($ Millions)||Savings & Revenue ($ Millions)|
|Budget pressures (existing contracts and inflation)||$75 - $100|
|Revenues from new properties||$40|
|Direct expenses related to new properties||$20|
|Strategic review and efficiencies||$35-$60|
|Elimination of tax exemptions||$5|
|Property tax increase at 2%||$40|
$35 million in Savings, Control Spending in the Years Ahead, and Deliver Value for Taxpayers
Mark Sutcliffe is proposing an innovative approach to the oversight of spending that will produce sustainable savings in 2023 and in the year ahead. Taxes are higher in Ottawa than in other cities in Ontario; according to the Financial Information Returns filed with the province, on a per household basis in 2021 Ottawa residents paid about $500 more per year in property taxes than those in Toronto and Hamilton.
We can do better to control spending, which the previous council neglected.
Before the tabling of the 2023 budget, Sutcliffe will oversee a full strategic review of all city operating and capital spending. This review will analyze trends, make comparisons with other jurisdictions, assess ongoing budget variances, and review all capital projects in process to ensure we are delivering value for people in Ottawa.
Of the $35 million in savings, about $15 million will come from eliminating vacant non-essential staff positions (100) and through attrition of non-essential staff (100 out of the about 800 staff) who leave the city voluntarily each year through retirement or other reasons. The 200 staff “positions” represents 1.25 per cent of the almost 16,000 staff that work for the city. The savings include staffing costs plus associated overhead. No current staff will lose their jobs as a result of this review. As the review is undertaken we look at opportunities to transfer staff within departments or to other departments to meet pressing priorities.
About $20 million will be saved by reducing work with consultants and other external services, as well as through the use of technology to better serve residents. These savings represent about 3 per cent of spending in this category.
The city will strive to produce better results with the same or fewer resources. For example, the millions of dollars currently spent on hotels for homeless individuals will be reallocated to proper housing with ongoing support.
This fiscal framework assumes the city will face $75 million in budget pressures from contracted wage increases and increased costs. It proposes to use one-half of taxes from growth to partially offset those pressures. To achieve a 2 per cent tax increase, the plan proposes $35 million in operating cost savings and the elimination of certain tax exemptions and preferences given to some businesses.
Controlling spending does not happen just at the beginning of a council term but on an ongoing basis. Delivering value for Ottawa taxpayers over the term of Council will include:
Establish a transparent budget challenge process with meaningful Councillor and community input.
Set and monitor performance and accountability measures for city operations with comparisons to best practices and property tax levels in other cities.
Report the city’s financial data online and in real-time and in a format that is easy to understand.
Ensure fairness in tax payments received from the federal government for the properties they own.
Produce an “Annual Report on the Economy and the Environment” that holds City Hall and others accountable for how we are performing, where we are meeting climate targets and where we are falling short to better inform the public and spur action.
Annual Priority Investments of $25 million
|Funding for Community Service agencies to help the most vulnerable in our community to act as the first point of contact for people living on the streets, with addictions, and mental health challenges||$4.0|
|Improve winter clearing standards on residential roads and pay-as-you-go portion for repairs to roads, sidewalk, and cycling||$10.0|
|Reducing recreation fees for childrens’ programming by 10%||$2.0|
|Freeze all transit fares including for Equipass, seniors and youth||$5.0|
|Double the councillors' traffic calming budgets||$1.2|
|Invest in major events, cultural programming, music city||$0.5|
|Expansion of the program to enable seniors to defer payment of property taxes||$0.5|
|Accelerate programs on anti-racism||$0.2|
|Strengthened oversight of Police services by the Police Services Board, at OC Transpo and financial oversight||$0.1|
Notes on Priority Spending:
Of the $25 million promised for winter clearing improvements, as well as for repairs to roads, sidewalks and cycling, a portion will be covered by the rising federal gas tax, provincial grants and from cancelling low priority capital projects that have never started or are in progress but halted with no plan for resumption. Reserves will not be depleted for this purpose.
Organizations that provide essential services for those dealing with substance use disorder and mental illness, including housing, employment services, and counselling
Integrated, cross-disciplinary response to incidents involving mental illness and substance use disorder and reduce the need for police intervention when specialized services will achieve better results.
The city has said that a freeze on transit fares would cost $5 million. This assumes a return to near normal or pre-pandemic levels. City Council approved a 2022 budget that overestimated revenues by $85 million, leaving a deficit in the city budget. It is likely that the $5 million estimate for freezing transit fares is high but this will be reviewed during the 2023 budget-making process.
Tree planting will be supported with grants from the $3.2 billion federal program to plant 2 billion trees and the Forests Ontario 50 Million Trees program. The program will also include a “plant-your-own-tree for free” initiative as is offered by other municipalities in Canada.
The budget for traffic calming and safety in each ward will be doubled from $50,000 to $100,000
The budgeted 2022 revenue for “Complexes, Aquatics and Specialized Services (CASS)” that delivers recreation programs and services to all residents, including those with special needs, at recreation complexes, aquatic venues and seasonal spaces is $22 million. The expected 10% reduction in programming for children and youth is $2 million.
Policing support in the ByWard Market and other at-risk neighbourhoods will be funded as priority items out of the existing police budget.
The small business tax break is a continuation of the 2022 budget and will be retained.
Notes on the Fiscal Plan:
2022 budgeted property tax revenue is $2.1 billion.
Financial pressures from inflation, existing union contracts, and other costs that are funded by property taxes are expected to be about 3.5 per cent or $75 million. That’s the starting point of the budget.
New properties are estimated to generate about $40 million in 2023 (a 2 per cent growth rate similar to recent years). This amount is typically spread across departmental budgets for “growth” costs. This plan takes a different approach, investing some of the additional revenue in policing and in areas where the incremental growth costs can be clearly demonstrated, such as new roads and parks. The remaining $20 million will be used to offset budget pressures.
The Ottawa Police Services will add approximately 25 more positions each year from taxes available from new properties. This means the police service will grow as the city grows.
Elimination of certain tax preferences can protect revenue the city has given up, which means other taxpayers pay more. The Brownfields Assistance program that gives tax breaks to private landowners to clean up their contaminated properties will be eliminated. And the Community Improvement Plan program will be eliminated on a go-forward basis.
When union contracts come up for renewal, settlements will be both fair to workers and affordable to taxpayers. Staff wages represent about 50 per cent of operating spending so this is a critical aspect of leadership that the mayor must exercise.
Contribution to the capital fund is maintained at the same level as 2022 except as noted in this plan.
Financial and Ridership Challenge of OC Transpo
No other candidate is prepared to address the very serious issues facing OC Transpo. While in normal years OCTranspo produces revenues from fares close to $190-200 million per year, the pandemic has fundamentally changed this.
Council should have anticipated a drop in ridership post-pandemic, and pushed other levels of government for the shortfall. Because of their inaction, our city faces an $85 million deficit for the current fiscal year.
Taxpayers should not be on the hook for the failures of previous leadership.
While this fiscal plan assumes some continued support, this is not a guarantee. Immediately upon taking office, Sutcliffe will approach the federal government with this as the primary request. Other candidates have a wishlist of promises to be financed by other levels of government that are neither urgent nor a priority for most residents in this city. Under Sutcliffe’s leadership, this will be the top priority with the federal government.
Looking Ahead to Years 3 and 4
The objective of this plan was to build a strong, credible, realistic financial plan before releasing any numbers about taxes or transit fares or other fees.
Since the first day of the campaign, Sutcliffe has stated a goal of keeping tax as low as possible. The people of Ottawa can trust him to deliver the lowest possible tax increases in year 3 and 4, while protecting the core services they rely on and supporting our most vulnerable residents.
But this is a dangerous time to make false promises to the people of Ottawa. And with the current economic uncertainty, it would be irresponsible to pluck a figure out of the air for political purposes. This plan is responsible and honest. That’s the kind of leadership people deserve.
The exhaustive review of city spending will also be critical to keeping taxes as low as possible over the entire term of council.