By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Pushing forward with a plan initiated in 2017, Oshawa city council has increased the amount of money being redirected solely to infrastructure projects in an effort to tackle a growing list of work that has no funding source in the years ahead.
As part of the 2018 budget, approved on Jan. 19 with a 1.79 per cent tax increase for Oshawa residents, council also increased its one per cent infrastructure levy by 0.1 per cent in a small effort to scrape together more money to replace and repair aging infrastructure.
According to this year’s budget, the city is looking at $448 million worth of projects over the next nine years that will need to be completed, but yet to have an identified way to pay for them. These include degrading roads and bridges and other items throughout the city.
Last year, council created the one per cent levy, which formed part of the tax increase for 2017. It is estimated that the one per cent increase would garner an additional $1.2 million to be put toward infrastructure. The 0.1 per cent increase in 2018 is estimated to collect an additional $132,000, and in the coming years, current plans will see an additional 0.1 per cent added annually.
For some councillors, it just wasn’t enough.
“It seems to be if we stay stagnant at the 0.1 per cent increase, we’re not really making a dent,” said Councillor Amy McQuaid-England.
And while Councillor McQuaid-England’s attempts to push that figure higher were defeated by her fellow councillors, Councillor Dan Carter, the chair of the finance committee, noted that even if more dollars were able to flow toward infrastructure, it comes down to a staffing issue and the lack of capacity to complete more projects.
“The bottom line is, even if we had an additional $15 million…we don’t have the capacity to be able to meet those needs,” he said. “I think that this is a reasonable approach. I think it’s steady as we go.”
Councillors have also put much stock in the fact that with Ontario entering an election year, the province may soon start to loosen up the purse strings to appease voters before they hit the polls in June.
“I think that we’re doing a lot of different things to meet the needs,” said Carter. “We continue to look for matching dollars, we’ve set ourselves up to be able to use our interfund notes to maximize if the province comes with funds.”
As part of the motion to approve the increase, council will have the opportunity to review the infrastructure contributions and the levy increase during the second year of every council term.