Statement from Mayor Sendzik on approval of City’s 2021 budget
December 15, 2020 – After more than almost four months of work, I am proud that City Council reached a historic moment during these challenging times. On Monday night, Council approved both the 2021 Operating and Capital Budgets, the first time in modern history that the City has approved both budgets on the same night.
Listening to residents, businesses and community agencies, Council worked with staff to table a fiscally responsible budget that balanced the need to hold the line on taxes, and at the same time ensure that City services are maintained as we move through this current pandemic. With a 1.86 per cent increase for the average homeowner in St. Catharines, we have delivered a balanced budget.
Facing significant COVID-19 related pressures including a $4.2 million projected revenue shortfall and rate of inflation cost increases in 2021, staff managed to find efficiencies, responsibly deploy reserves and prioritized projects creating room to drive down any potential significant tax increases.
This was really a TEAM STC effort across the corporation. CAO Shelley Chemnitz and her team understood the financial situation facing property owners in our city and these budgets demonstrate the strength and skill of our team.
Despite mitigating the tax increase, the City also continued to invest in priorities guided by its strategic plan. From tens of millions of dollars in investments in capital projects for roads, bridges, water and sewers, to a $1.5-million investment in shoreline protection, to more than $2 million in investments in active transportation priorities – including bike lanes and City-wide trail improvements – the 2021 budget also promotes investment in our economy, and it will spur growth and create jobs.
Quote from Councillor Mat Siscoe, the City’s Budget Standing Committee Chair:
“A lot of hard work went into keeping the 2021 City budget to the rate of inflation, without cutting the services the residents of St. Catharines expect. I am hopeful this will lead the way with other levels of government during this tough budget season.”
I personally want to thank Budget Chair Mat Siscoe and Vice-Chair Lori Littleton for taking a leadership role in guiding the budget through the Council process. These are challenging times for everyone, and both Councillors rose to this challenge to help deliver this historic budget.
I also want to thank the Federal and Provincial governments for the Safe Restart Agreement funding that helped municipalities cover losses incurred in 2020 due to COVID16. Without that funding, this budget would have been much more difficult to build.
We still face headwinds as a community as we work through what is hopefully the final stages of the pandemic, but we are in a better position financially heading into 2021. I am optimistic that we will emerge from COVID-19 in 2021 and we will quickly regain the momentum that was propelling our city forward pre-COVID.