By Jon Willing, Ottawa Sun
Council on Wednesday unanimously accepted Mayor Jim Watson's direction to cap the property tax hike at 2% in 2015.
But council could have some work to do making sure transit fares don't increase beyond that as OC Transpo tries to improve its ridership and depend less on tax money for operations.
If transit requires more money than what a 2% tax increase can offer, there's only one other source of revenue to provide the difference: Riders.
"Well, I'm glad I'm not that transit chair," Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans quipped after asking the treasurer questions about transit implications during a council meeting.
And that was shortly after Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais was confirmed as the new chairman of the transit commission, succeeding Deans.
Staff are still working on the draft 2015 budget, which will be tabled Feb. 4.
The treasury isn't worried much about fuel prices since the city hedges about 75% of its consumption for the year. For 2015, that volume is hedged at about $1.04.
Staff are more concerned about salary increases awarded through arbitration. The city is currently in arbitration with its largest union, CUPE Local 503.
City manager Kent Kirkpatrick told council he doesn't intend to add more full-time equivalent positions to the municipal public service next year.
Some councillors continued to voice concern about being locked into a draft budget without move to manoeuvre.
River Coun. Riley Brockington warned against "handcuffing" council's ability to address critical needs. Capital Coun. David Chernushenko suggested he won't be afraid to recommend a higher tax increase if there are pressing social demands.
"Our job is to find that balance," Watson said. "Keep the taxes affordable but provide good basic public services at the same time."