Twists and tweaks to the 2017 budget

London, ON, Canada / 106.9 The X

London-LogoAfter making a few alterations, London’s 2017 budget is ready to go.

Thursday’s council meeting was met with several requests by different organizations for more room in next year’s budget (which had already been set with a 2.8% tax increase as part of their 2016-19 multi-year budget plan).

The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority and the London Middlesex Housing Corporation both asked for budget increases during 2017-19.

The UTRCA says they need to make some improvements, some of which haven’t been updated since the 1980s. While their $179,000 request for 2017 was approved, council declined their requests for 2018 ($193,000) and 2019 ($208,000) at this time, inviting them back to next year’s budget meeting for another pitch.

The money for 2017 is coming from the pool of new tax revenue that’s been created this year, or “assessment growth”.

Councillor Jesse Helmer says he thinks the revised motion will benefit more people in the upcoming year. “It allows them to flaunt at the immediate needs, and I think that sets them up for success in ’18 and ’19 if we were to grant those additional moneys at that time.”

The LMHC were also pleased with the outcome of the 2017 budget. They explained many houses were falling apart, and needed renovations before they could put people up in them. They said the cost of doing nothing would be far greater than granting an increase in funds.

Councillor Van Holst says one of council’s main goals is ending poverty here in London, and providing affordable and well maintained housing is a priority for obtaining that goal. “If we’re going to end poverty in a generation, we’re going to have to think about what we need to do before that generation is over. I think housing is one of those things and we have to solve that problem quickly.”

The LMHC received an extra $258, 000 for 2017 by pulling money from a social housing reserve fund. In 2018 they’ll receive an additional $65,000 and in 2019, an additional $66,000. That money will be applied against the tax rate.

Using pre-existing budgets and savings, council was able to find the funds to support free bus rides for children 5-12, passing the motion in a unanimous vote. This change was recommended by the anti-poverty tax force, and will cost approximately $150,000 to implement.

The change can begin as early as January 1st, 2017.

Councillor Helmer says this is one of the best ideas that has come forward to council. “I think that it really encourages, especially families. The cost of a trip for an adult and two kids will be cut in half. And that adds up for a lot, that’s a lot of savings.”

A 2.8% tax hike would add $76 to the tax bill of an average London home (average being a home assessed at $221,000) next year.

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