Kingston city council will crack open the books on the 2017 budget, starting tonight.
The budget includes a built-in property tax increase of 2.5 percent.
That creates a tricky balancing act for Kingston transit — which may have to delay many of its service enhancements in order to prevent taxes from going even higher.
Darryn Davis has more….
It’s budget season at city hall.
The city wants to spend 359 million dollars next year on municipal services and programs, like Kingston transit.
The bus service has an aggressive 5 year plan to improve service and increase ridership.
Faster service on existing routes, more Sunday-holiday service, adding a new express service… and a new rate schedule.
“We asked council in September for a half a per cent on the tax base to help fund this which generally translates to about a million dollars. ”
But council is determined to stick to its 2 and a half per cent tax increase cap.
While some improvements can be funded in 2017 — future years are ‘iffy.’
” We’ll work over the course of the next 12 month period to see if we can find some efficiencies across the organization other tax revenue opportunities.”
If that doesn’t pan out then services like an express route for Montreal street could be delayed past its scheduled launch in 2018.
“Nothing happens fast so if they have to delay it ”
“They have to delay it but in the future it will be there so you have to think positive it’s going to be there you’ve just got to hope it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”
“There’s a finite amount of money and so if that’s what needs to happen it’s unfortunate but as I said I was really looking forward to the express going out Montreal.”
Councillor Jim Neill wants to know the cost of launching Montreal street express service sooner.
“perhaps it means looking a little bit more at what our priorities should be. ”
But the transit boss says even if the money is available — the buses aren’t.
“Kingston transit is ordering more buses in 2017 to take advantage of federal funding which will pay for about half the cost of the buses, but it takes a while for that order to be filled.”
” Once we have the capital budget approved to order our new buses to be able to run that service then we need about a twelve month window for delivery.”
There will also need to be infrastructure improvements along montreal street to
accommodate express service.
City councillors have set aside 3 nights to finalize the budget for transit, and other municipal spending.
Darryn Davis CKWS News Kingston