Council Approves 2.5% Tax Hike

Londoners will see a 2.5% increase on this year’s tax bill.

That works out to an additional $63 for the average home in London, which is valued at $214,000.

Council approved the budget in a quick meeting with little debate on Thursday night.

There were mixed emotions over this council’s first budget.

“It’s particularly a challenging when it’s your first budget in a new term and I’d have to say this was the smoothest budget to date,” says Mayor Matt Brown, who has gone through the process five times.

However, some of the 11 new councillors who took office in December feel as if there was little to be done.

“Not having been here for the years before, a lot of the decisions had been made beforehand. All of the planning and all of the allocations of money, I found, had already been done,” says Councillor Phil Squire. “I didn’t really feel it was as much the new council’s budget, but the old council’s budget.”

This year’s budget includes $1.3-million to get the ball rolling on the transformation of Dundas St. into a flex street. Four blocks will be revamped to make it a pedestrian-only zone for summer festivals.

What it does not include is money for a wage hike for the city’s police officers, who are set to negotiate a new contract this year.

London Police reduced staffing and closed headquarters overnight in an effort to cut costs. The organization asked for a 1% budget increase in 2015.

“They are negotiating and when they see where that’s at then there will be a further conversation. We plan for things like that,” says Budget Chair Paul Hubert. “The police is not the only union that’s are in negotiations. Fire is in arbitration, 101, 107, the unions at Dearness.”

Council started off with a proposed tax increase of 2.9% and reduced to 2.5% after four meetings, saving tax payers an additional $9.

In the coming months, councillors will work on a budget spanning four years rather than just one, as the city moves to a multi-year budgeting system.