Thanks to a last-minute infusion of social services funding from the Province, Hamilton City Council was able to sign off on a 2009 city budget with only a 1.7 percent tax rate increase.
The Province has already pledged to upload municipal social service costs, but in a process phased over a few years. The $16.5 million transfer, announced last week, helps to bridge the gap during the transition.
This week, Councillors voted to freeze non-union staff pay - including their own salaries - at 2008 levels. Also helping was the dramatic drop in fuel prices since the middle of 2008, which recently forestalled a proposed transit fare increase.
While the budget did include some modest cuts, operating efficiency gains and increased fee revenue, it also features some high-profile projects, including the York Blvd / Farmers' Market renovation, park and recreation complex development, road resurfacing and an expansion of the transit boundary.
In a press release issued last night, Mayor Fred Eisenberger stated, "this year's increase of 1.7 percent is the lowest among area municipalities. It's a very strong signal to the people of Hamilton that we are moving in the right direction as we weather the current economic reality."
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