Sutcliffe pledging to keep to a 2 to 2.5 per cent property tax cap if elected mayor of Ottawa

Mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe said Wednesday that he would hold property tax increases to between 2 and 2.5 per cent in the first two years of his term, if he is elected mayor of Ottawa.

Sutcliffe released his financial plan, saying he would commit to a tax increase of no more than 2.5 per cent in 2023 and 2024 and would target the same level for 2025 and 2026.

He is also pledging to undertake a strategic review of all city spending and said he would commit to no new types of taxes over the next four years.

“More than ever, we need a very thorough approach to budgeting that protects core services, keeps taxes as low as possible, and delivers responsible fiscal management instead of empty political promises,” he said in a news release.

In the last term of council, Mayor Jim Watson committed to a property tax increase of no more than 3 per cent. In previous terms, Watson capped increases at 2 per cent.

Sutcliffe’s primary opponents have also made tax pledges. Coun. Catherine McKenney said they would commit to a three per cent property tax cap, while former mayor Bob Chiarelli is promising to freeze taxes and spending at 2022 levels in 2023. 

McKenney plans to release their financial platform Thursday.

Sutcliffe’s release also includes estimated costs of some of his other promises. Notably:

  • $4 million in annual funding for community service agencies, with a focus on those offering mental health and substance use disorder programs to vulnerable residents;
  • $25 million in new operating and capital funding to improve road quality and safety, including repair, maintenance, ice and snow clearing, and fixing cracks and potholes in sidewalks and bike paths;
  • $5 million to freeze transit fares for one year while a review of the service is being undertaken;
  • $2 million per year to cut recreation fees for children and youth by 10 per cent;
  • $1.2 million per year to double traffic calming funding for ward councillors;
  • $1 million per year for tree planting;
  • $500,000 per year on major events, cultural programming, and his “Music City” pledge;
  • $500,000 per year toward expanding a program to enable seniors to defer payment of property taxes;
  • $200,000 per year to accelerate programs on anti-racism;
  • $100,000 per year toward strengthened oversight of police services by the Police Services Board, at OC Transpo and financial oversight; and
  • $500,000 per year in contingency funding

“Fiscal discipline isn’t just something I’m talking about now that I’m running for mayor. It’s something I’ve practiced my whole life,” Sutcliffe said. “As a small business owner, executive, and leader of non-profit organizations, I’ve been managing budgets and practicing financial management my entire career. I will bring that experience to city hall to make like more affordable for everyone.”

His plan also includes a projected $35 million in savings through eliminating vacant non-essential jobs, attrition of non-essential staff, and “reducing work with consultants and other external services, as well as through the use of technology.” His costed platform, balacing $120 to $145 million in promises, requires $35 to $60 million in strategic review and efficiencies to reach balance.

Sutcliffe says he would negotiate with unions that represent city of Ottawa employees to reach deals that are “both fair to workers and affordable to taxpayers.”

He says he expects the city to raise $40 million in revenue from new properties and $5 million through the elimination of tax exemptions. A property tax increase of 2 per cent would bring in an additional $40 million, he says. 

Sutcliffe’s plan says some of the $40 million from new properties would be directed toward policing and “areas where the incremental growth costs can be clearly demonstrated, such as new roads and parks.” The remaining $20 million would be used to offset budget pressures, he said. He expects to see 25 new police officers each year.

Tax exemptions he would eliminate include the Brownfields Assistance program and the Community Improvement Plan program, which, notably, was granted for a proposed Porsche dealership on Montreal Road last year.

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