The 2013 budget has been approved at GIC and will move through Council on Wednesday April 10, 2013. The final number approved was 1.93 percent, second lowest in Ontario with our comparators. At the beginning of this process, we were looking at a 5.5% increase and have managed to whittle it down to 1.93%. The major drivers for the tax increase are employee salaries and benefits, and fuel and hydro costs.

The average assessment in Ward 8 dropped to -0.6% considering the average assessment, the actual tax increase in Ward 8 will be 1.5%. This would represent a $57.00 increase on an average home assessment of 269,200.00.

The City Council has taken great strides to control costs, recently negotiating union contracts at the 1.9% increase range, which is fair and led municipalities across Ontario in controlling these costs. This year we have just started to negotiate the Firefighters contract and are about to enter into negotiations with the Police Association. The directive has been consistent for both of these Associations, with the objective to maintain and control cost by limiting the increases to be consistent with all local recently negotiated contracts. The difference is that these two organizations have the ability to take us to interest arbitration, as they are declared essential services. In the past arbitrators approved compensation packages for Fire and Police that maintained their position as compared to associations within all of Ontario.

A lot of pressure has come to bear by municipalities across Ontario and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). We have been lobbying the Provincial Government to make the necessary changes within legislation or regulations that will result in arbitrators ruling based on the ability for communities to pay.

Premier Wynne has acknowledged that this issue needs to be addressed and we are hopeful in the meantime that arbitrators will hold the line to ensure that any enumeration decisions are more in line, understanding the individual circumstances of the community.