Hamilton City council will have to trim about $23 Million from the preliminary budget estimates for 2018 if it is to stick to its goal of turning in no more than a one and a half percent tax increase for ratepayers. As it stands the preliminary capital and operating budget of just under $0.8 Billion would result in an average home tax increase of $80. The number of city employees will rise by 10 to 7,148, although this figure does not appear to take into account council’s approval of 58 new bus drivers last fall. The rationale at the time of that approval was that the cost of the new hires would more than be offset by reductions in overtime. Some drivers had been logging up to 20 hours of overtime a week to deal with a rash of absenteeism which the Amalgamated Transit Union said was due to unreasonable work conditions and bad morale. The increase in full time employees came even as the Ontario Works department shed some 24 positions. These were people hired supposedly as temporary employees to deal with the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent spike in welfare cases, but who somehow became permanent positions.
This year for the first time department heads will submit four year business plans for their departments. “An integrated process improves decision making by providing Council and tax and rate payers more information about where City funds are used, linking service costs to service levels and outcomes, and better connecting long-term goals to short term spending decisions,” the budget preamble says. It takes an increase or a spending cut of about $8 Million to affect the tax levy by 1 percent.