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2016 City budget set for Council discussion March 7

2016 City budget set for Council discussion March 7

2016 City budget set for Council discussion March 7

The 2016 City of St. Catharines operating budget has been presented to Council with a proposed 2.16 per cent increase on the property tax bill – approximately $70 for the average rate payer.

The draft budget was approved by the Standing Budget Committee on Feb. 9 after several months of meetings with City staff to review departmental budgets in detail. The Budget Committee also held two open houses and a telephone town hall where residents were invited to provide feedback and direction on the City’s budget priorities.

“I’m proud of the work of the Budget Committee and City staff to prepare a budget that balances the need for fiscal responsibility with the need to invest strategically to sustain our facilities, maintain service levels and invest in opportunities to grow our city and our tax base,” said Mayor Walter Sendzik. “I want to thank the members of the Budget Committee and City staff for their cooperation to prepare the budget.”

The 2016 operating budget contains minimal increases in departmental expenses while investing in priority areas to support economic development, job creation and transit. The Budget Committee also recommended the creation of reserve funds to improve the City’s financial management strategy including a tax rate stabilization reserve fund, a winter control reserve fund and a capital reserve fund for the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. The reserve funds will help reduce future rate increases for maintenance or unexpected cost overruns, such as a difficult winter season. The draft budget also includes the creation of a 1 per cent infrastructure levy to directly address the City’s infrastructure deficit of $140 million in hard infrastructure areas, such as roads, sewers and bridges.

“I’m pleased with the process undertaken by the Budget Committee this year, and the budget we’ve forwarded to Council,” said Standing Budget Committee Chair, Councillor Mat Siscoe. “It allows us to maintain infrastructure and build a sustainable financial picture going forward, while also recognizing that we need to keep the tax increase reasonable for residents. At 2.16 per cent, I think we’ve achieved that balance quite well, and we’ve set up long-term plans that will serve residents well in the future,” continued Councillor Siscoe.

City Council will discuss the 2016 operating budget at a Council meeting on Monday, March 7. Council has reserved additional meeting time on Tuesday, March 8 if needed to approve the budget.

The full 2016 draft operating budget is available online at www.stcatharines.ca/budget

Residents are welcome to submit their feedback to the Mayor and Council through budget@stcatharines.ca