Hamilton approves controversial budget with taxpayers on the hook for 5.8 per cent property tax bump

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Published February 15, 2024 at 4:58 pm

Hamilton City Hall

Hamilton’s “difficult” 2024 City budget is a go, with Council approving the budget Thursday by a 10-6 vote.

The budget will see a 19.4 per cent increase in spending and a bottom line 5.79 per cent property tax increase – about $286 per household – for Hamilton taxpayers.

Mayor Andrea Horwath called it a “difficult” budget and thanked Council and staff for getting the document to the finish line.

“Council was willing to have tough conversations and make difficult decisions, working with staff to address affordability for Hamiltonians while ensuring we invest in critical City programs and services,” she said. “The 2024 budget manages the cost of downloading from the Province, delivers responsible and sustainable enhancements and maintains service excellence.”

Those downloaded costs amounted to about 2.55 per cent of the tax hike, prompting Horwath to declare that the City’s portion of the increase was just 3.24 per cent.

Economic pressures and rising costs were also a factor in making the budget process ‘challenging,” Horwath said.

Discussions during this year’s budget process were long and at times tense, especially surrounding the $214.8 million police budget. That file was sent back to the Police Services Board for a line-by-line review after hundreds of residents packed the council chambers during deliberations, demanding the police budget be reduced, with those savings going to affordable housing and homelessness initiatives.

In the end the review was all for naught, with the police ask returned to Council untouched. It passed at Council Thursday 10-6.

The dissenters (Maureen Wilson, Nrinder Nann, Cameron Kroetsch, Tammy Hwang, Alex Wilson and Craig Casar) were a different six-pack of councillors who voted against the entire budget. Those nay-sayers included Matt Francis, Tom Jackson, Mike Spadafora, Brad Clark, Jeff Beattie and Mark Tadeson.

The 5.79 per cent tax increase is down from the 7.9 per cent recommended by staff but still required several programs to be deferred, including recently promised measures to protect renters.

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