CITY OF KITCHENER
Kitchener council has approved the 2020 budget, authorizing a financial plan that advances the City’s strategic priorities while incorporating recommendations from its first long-term financial plan to minimize financial risk and maintain the City’s strong financial position. The property tax increase of 2.09 per cent is consistent with the local rate of inflation, and water utility services will see a rate increase of 4.4 per cent to support ongoing investments into the reliability of the City’s water infrastructure.
The 2020 budget supports the delivery of core services for residents and includes investments aligned with the goals and actions identified in the City’s 2019-2022 strategic plan. Through the approval of this year’s budget, the public can expect to see continued progress towards the development of a protected cycling network, implementation of elements of the City’s urban forest strategy, enhancements in customer service, and initiatives that will help the City move closer to achieving targets identified in its Corporate Climate Action Plan.
New to this year’s budget process was a list of strategic items for Council to consider with a variety of funding options presented for each. Members of the public were invited to indicate how they would assign the available funding between these priorities through an online survey, and the allocations suggested were presented to council for consideration. Staff consistently heard that councillors and Kitchener residents overwhelmingly support strong climate action. This feedback was included in the final budget, which included expanded funding for energy-saving upgrades in community centres and arenas, as well as the initially proposed purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles for the City’s operational fleet.
“Responsibly managing public funds is a core responsibility for every elected official,” said Councillor Scott Davey, Chair of the Finance and Corporate Services Committee. “The budget process has a profound impact on the services and programs we deliver to our community, and this year we had a unique opportunity to directly see our constituents’ priorities. Having such a strong mandate for action on climate change and infrastructure investment gives us the added confidence that our focus in 2020 is where it should be.”
For the past five years, the City of Kitchener has ended each fiscal year with a small budgetary surplus. Alongside efforts to improve the City’s debt position, a focus on fiscal responsibility and long-term planning has allowed Kitchener to increase infrastructure investment and proactively plan major asset replacements without increasing property taxes above the rate of inflation.
“This council recently endorsed a comprehensive long-term financial plan and also built a four-year strategic plan based on specific and measurable community priorities,” said Jonathan Lautenbach, the City of Kitchener’s Chief Financial Officer. “This forward-thinking approach is why we’re in the strong position we now find ourselves.”
Included in the 2020 budget is the reallocation of operating budget funds previously used to pay off investments in economic development. The majority of this funding has been redirected towards addressing the needs of the City’s aging facility infrastructure. Remaining funds will be used to advance the City’s five strategic goals: environmental leadership, caring community, vibrant economy, people-friendly transportation and great customer service.
“The 2020 budget is something that we can be proud of as a community,” said Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “The leadership of this council and the diligent support of staff have considerably improved our financial situation, allowing us to advance community priorities like housing affordability, climate action and resident-led Love My Hood grants while maintaining an extremely competitive tax rate. We continue to see broad public support for our investments in water infrastructure, and this is a testament to our strong track record in making Kitchener a great place to live, work and play.”
A summary of the rate changes can be found below, with dollar figure examples explaining the impact of these changes for an owner of a home valued at $309,000 – the average assessed value of a home in Kitchener.
The rate changes are as follows:
- Property tax increase is 2.09 per cent or $23 annually
- Water utilities increase is 4.4 per cent or $50 annually
- Natural gas is increased 1 per cent or $7 annually
- The total impact annually on the average household is $80