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City infrastructure and transit a focus in 2015 Hamilton budget

Dena Fehir
City infrastructure and transit a focus in 2015 Hamilton budget

HAMILTON—Hamilton’s 2015 operating budget includes approximately $150 million for infrastructure and transit, focusing on significant investment in economic growth related enhancement.

This year’s budget means a 2.7 per cent tax increase from 2014, which amounts to approximately $99 per year or $8.25 per month for the average land owner with a property assessed at $284,600.

The city has three annual budgets — operating (the largest), capital and rate supported. The 2015 capital budget is $261 million and was approved in February of this year. The focus is on roads, corporate and recreational facilities, long-term care and cultural properties and investments that support growth.

"Thanks to city staff and council for their hard work in finalizing this budget," said Fred Eisenberger, Hamilton’s mayor.

"It brings increased investment in roads, while including targeted investments in growing the economic base of our community, which includes the waterfront. This capital budget balances the need for additional investments and tax competitiveness."

Capital infrastructure investment highlights include:

— $82.6 million for roads maintenance.

— $16.6 million for growth-related road improvements.

— $14.4 million in corporate and recreational facilities in need of rehabilitation

— $13.1 million for transit buses.

— $11 million for other transit priorities.

— $11 million for West Harbour Strategic Initiatives.

Funding sources of the gross capital budget include property taxes and non-property tax funding sources, such as development charges, reserves and government subsidies.

The increase in capital funding from property taxes equates to an increase in the operating budget of 0.5 per cent or $3.7 million. This represents an increase of $15 on an average Hamilton household.

"The outcome of the 2015 budget proves that the City of Hamilton is focused on financial sustainability and improved budget practices," said Mike Zegara, Hamilton’s finance and corporate services general manager.

Highlights of the operating budget include:

— $1.7 million towards ambulances and additional paramedics to lower response times and increase ambulance availability

— $1.2 millionfor enhanced transit services, which is part of a plan to spend $6 million over the next two years for improvements to the system, including new employees and 25 new buses to deal with overcrowding

— $890,000 for Accessible Transportation Services

— $500,000 in grants for the Strategic Municipal Investment in the Arts program, which the arts community insists are valuable cultural and economic drivers for the city

— $100,560 on two new positions to deal with air quality. One will be a senior project manager dealing with air quality initiatives. The other will be a project manager. Both will work in public health and compile air quality data in Hamilton and use it to advise council on policies.

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