The first of two significant budget shoes has dropped with Hamilton’s GIC Committee giving its approval to the 2021 Capital Budget. Council will now turn its attention to the operating budget in a series of special GIC meetings that will take place in the New Year.
Council approved spending $472 Million—the largest single item being $140 Million for a new transit maintenance and storage facility. Almost $100 million will go to upkeep of the city’s roads and bridges. $30 Million will go towards housing, and another $30 Million to maintain the city’s various municipal buildings, recreation facilities and the like.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger heaped praise on City Finance Chief Mike Zegarac and his staff for their work presenting the budget. “Pandemic or no pandemic our city needs to be maintained,” the Mayor said, adding that there still needs to be more financial support to cities from the senior governments.
To fund the program, Hamilton taxpayers will contribute $86 Million in 2021. The city will borrow $29 Million, $155 Million will come from government grants and subsidies, development reserves will contribute $79 Million, $36 Million will come from the Gas Tax Reserve. Alectra and the Hamilton Future fund will provide about $9 Million.
As a result of expansion, transit services will add 56 employees, most of them related to adding drivers to increase service as part of the city’s multi-year transit plan. There will also be 15 firefighters hired to staff the new Waterdown Fire Station.
When it comes to managing its debt, the city is in good shape. Council has set a borrowing limit of 60 percent of the city’s annual revenue and so far the actual debt is sitting at about 28 percent. Provincial regulations limit the cost of borrowing that can be incurred by a municipality at 25 percent. Hamilton is only paying slightly more than 4 percent.