Mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe publishes spending plan, vows to limit property tax hike to 2 to 2.5 percent for first two years

Mark Sutcliffe, who is running for the office for the first time, said the city is in “an affordability crisis”.

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Mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious fiscal policy that promises to limit property tax increases to between 2 and 2.5 percent for at least two years, while protecting the city’s critical infrastructure and investing in it.

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Sutcliffe also said that if elected, he would target the same series of tax hikes for the following years, albeit with caveats.

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“With the current level of inflation and economic uncertainty, it is impossible to predict the conditions that will shape the budget for 2024 and 2025,” Sutcliffe told reporters during a campaign announcement downtown.

“But I will do my best, as I have done since the very first day of this election campaign, to keep taxes as low as possible.”

Sutcliffe, who is going to the office for the first time, said the city is in “an affordability crisis”.

“People have to make tough choices, really tough choices, so they can pay their rent or mortgage and still have their kids in dance class or hockey,” he said. “…So they can do enough shopping and still have money to put gas in their vehicles.”

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His pledge to keep tax hikes under 2.5 percent undercut his main rival’s pledge to mayor chairman Catherine McKenney, who pledges to limit tax hikes to three percent. McKenney plans to announce a more detailed tax plan on Thursday.

Whether both candidates can deliver on what they promise is an open question.

Sutcliffe says he will launch a strategic review of city spending with the goal of finding $35 million to $60 million in “efficiencies” — equivalent to about one percent of the city budget.

“There hasn’t been a proper, line-by-line assessment of city spending in nearly 20 years,” he told reporters. “We’re going to find efficiencies and re-apply them to the areas of investment we’ve talked about.”

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While he says no one will lose their job, he says 100 positions will be eliminated due to exhaustion of vacant and non-essential positions.

Funding for other pledges — for example, additional police officers and a police station in the ByWard Market — will be paid in part with revenue from projected growth, he said.

Among other promises from Sutcliffe:

  • $2 million to reduce recreation costs for children and families by 10 percent
  • $5 million to freeze transit tariffs for 2023
  • $25 million for road repairs, better snow and ice removal, and repair of sidewalks and bike paths
  • $1.2 million for traffic calming measures
  • $4 million in funding for social services, targeting mental health disorders and substance abuse.

Sutcliffe said his budget was “prudent, accurate and responsible” and takes into account expected cost increases due to inflation.

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Cost increases due to inflation and supply chain shortages are beyond a mayor’s control, he said. “But what I can do is show respect for taxpayers going through the affordability crisis and make sure the city doesn’t contribute to the financial pressures people are feeling.”

The municipal elections are on October 24.

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