'Balanced, affordable and progressive': Mayor tables 2018 budget
The budget focused primarily on cautious investments in infrastructure
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The city tabled a 2018 budget that contained little in the way of surprises or big-ticket spending, but was defined by significant investment in municipal infrastructure and keeping to the mayor's two per-cent tax pledge.
The bulk of new investment in the $3.42 billion budget will go to areas like road maintenance, pedestrian infrastructure, and social services.
The budget was, a laundry list of small, but significant, spending increases: $5.6 million in new spending for road resurfacing; $2.3 million for winter road maintenance; $7 million for cycling infrastructure; $1.7 million for housing agencies in the city.
In plain language, the mayor’s budget focused better roads, sidewalks, and bike paths. A total of 70 kilometres of roads in rural areas will be resurfaced, there will be 15 kilometres of new bike paths in the city and the bike lanes on O’Connor and the Mackenzie King Bridge will be winterized this year.
“The infrastructure gap is a significant challenge for municipalities nationwide,” the mayor told council. That, he said, was reflected in what the city was hearing from residents, whose “number one request” was that the city spend more on road resurfacing and maintenance.
“Generally, I would say the budget we have presented to you is based on solid research about what we need to have,” said city treasurer Marian Simulik.
Watson said it was a budget that kept things as is, calling it "balanced, affordable and progressive."
“We’re not adding a whole range programs and funding partners. We’re maintaining our relationships with the partners we do have,” said Watson.
Cuts last year, reflected primarily in a trimming of the city’s administration, freed the city to table a budget that was largely free of any major pain points.
“I think the belt-tightening was done last year when we did the reductions,” said Simulik. Watson reiterated this, saying difficult choices city manager Steve Kanellakos made last year were bearing significant fruits for the first time in the 2018 budget.
Coun. Rick Chiarelli called this budget—and the budgets of the last three years—“fake,” adding that “if we’re budgeting at fake numbers, to get a two-per-cent tax increase and it ends up costing more than that two per cent, then we’ll be repeating what we’ve done in the last several years, and we won’t be making the serious decisions we have to make for a bright financial future.”