Hamilton city council has managed to whittle about $32 Million from it’s original 2021 budget estimate, meaning the potential tax increase right now stands at 2.2 percent. In a presentation to General Issues committee members Thursday Hamilton finance chief Mike Zegarac presented a slide that showed Hamilton’s 2021 tax increase compares favourably with other Ontario cities such a Toronto, Burlington and London. The city appears to be on target to approve its operating budget by the end of March.
Police and ambulance budgets
Councillor Lloyd Ferguson was frustrated in trying to shave some costs from the Ambulance budget. He opposed an earlier decision by council to add an additional ambulance to the system, arguing that Hamilton had already provided six additio0nal ambulances in recent years; and as a result the number of “Code Zero” events had declined sharply. Code Zero occurs when the city has either one or zero ambulances available at any given point in time. Each new ambulance placed into service results in the creation of 10 full time EMS workers due to the 24/7 nature of the service. Ferguson wondered if the timing of the new hires might result in some savings but he was told the budget numbers already reflect the fact that the hires won’t take place until April. He also expressed concern that the Police budget will come in at 2.9 percent over last year when Council had ordered the boards and agencies to keep their increases to 2 percent. “If there was ever a time when our boards should stick to our budget guidelines, this is it,” Ferguson said, “Instead they ignored us.” Ferguson said he might have no option but to vote against the entire budget.
Industrial property class reduced
Hamilton continue to rely overwhelmingly on its residential tax base. Zegarac said the industrial property class had an overall assessment reduction of $4.6 M which resulted in a revenue loss of -$257,000 in tax revenue. The decrease in the assessment value is, in part, due to the reclassification of industrial lands to residential or commercial. The most notable reduction in the class is the property formerly occupied by The Spectator, which is now exempt as it was purchased by McMaster. The industrial property class has also seen a number of appeals that have decreased the assessment value. Some examples include Nelson Steel Co.,Nova Steel and Taylor Steel.