The debrief: Passing the 2019 Budget

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On Monday, February 11, the Waterloo City Council passed the 2019 budget. It provides millions and millions of dollars to City departments to do all the nuts-and-bolts operations, some extremely big and exciting projects, and a few additional extras that we, as a Council, voted to support.

What was it like? That morning, I was feeling well prepared, thanks to a mountain of reading I’ve been carrying in my backpack for a month, but I was also feeling the weight of responsibility. I really wanted to find ways to address some of the major issues I’ve heard from Uptowners, to tackle some of the major issues we’re facing as a City and to grapple with our infrastructure issues, all without hiking taxes too much.

The meeting itself went much faster than I expected! No eight-hour slog through endless papers and debates — in just about four hours, it was done. It helped that we Councillors have spent the last six weeks going through all of the budget books, asking questions of staff, and weighing up the competing requests. (I’d like to give huge props to City staff for being so helpful and answer soooo many questions from all of us. It helped immensely!)

On the night, we went through the budget, pulling particular items out for discussion as we went along. We didn’t always agree, and that’s the point of Council. I voted against some things that passed; I helped pass things that others voted against. Together, though, I believe we made some very strong decisions.

Overall, the increase came in at 2.2% (or just a teensy bit under that). That’s a bit higher than I had been hoping for, and I suspect I’m not alone in that, but it means there are lots of good things on the way. Some personal highlights:

  • We released funding for the East Side Library and Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex plans to really hit the road.

  • We added almost $32,000 to the Community Cash Grants program, which provides funding to projects big and small in communities right across the City. This program is brilliant at supporting community-led initiatives, and empower people to get together, to get creative, and really to impact their neighbourhoods and communities in positive ways.

  • We found ways to support frontline staff as well as improve process behind the scenes at City Hall, which hopefully will improve the experience of citizens dealing with the City and staffers themselves.


ALSO AT COUNCIL:

Budget has eaten up a whole lot of time lately, but we’re getting back into the swing of routine Council meetings.

Each meeting’s Agenda and background information (called “packets”) are released each Thursday leading up to a Monday Council meeting. You can find those here.

We often don’t know far in advance what is coming up, so unfortunately we can’t give a lot of advance notice on issues. If you are curious about development applications (and, hey, who isn’t?), the City lists all requests for zoning changes here. Each project lists a staff contact person, whom you can contact if you’d like to receive updates.

Stay warm and safe, folks!