After two nights of deliberations, Kingston city councillors put their stamp of approval on the $400-million operating budget for next year, bringing with it a 2.5 per cent property tax hike.
“This is what we said we were going to do when we put our strategic plan together to hold the line 1.5 per cent plus one per cent for infrastructure,” said Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson.
The tax increase works out to an extra $90 for the average homeowner, but it’s not just homeowners feeling the impact on their wallets. Kingston Transit riders will also have to pay more in the new year. According to the approved budget, an adult cash fare will rise .25 cents to $3.25.
“The transit service is so much better than it used to be, and we think that this is a reasonable increase,” said Paterson.
Higher-than-expected transit revenues coupled with more assessment growth brought in more money for municipal coffers. This allowed the city to maintain garbage collection and snow plowing while creating more affordable housing, building the Kingston East Community Centre, doing more road repairs and implementing new projects to tackle Kingston’s climate emergency.
Kingston police also got their wish list approved, as they will now be able to hire 10 more front-line officers next year, and the police horse won’t be put out to pasture as a budget cut.
The decision to save Murney the police horse came after public outcry, which included a petition created by a downtown Kingston business owner garnering 2,000 signatures.
“There was just a groundswell of support for Murney and the mounted unit,” said David Dossett, owner of Martello Alley.
The mayor told Global News that the city and its police force managed to come up with $48,000 to keep the mounted unit and that taxpayers won’t be saddled with Murney’s cost anymore.
The mayor said funding will instead come from donations, sponsorships and partnerships as there are agreements in place. As for who’s behind the money for Murney, the mayor won’t reveal it just yet.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.