Earlier today City Council adopted Budget 2011, and a tax increase of 2.45%, slightly below the 2.5% maximum total tax increase directed by the newly elected Council on December 15, 2010. Budget 2011’s tax increase of 2.45% for urban home owners and commercial properties translates into an average increase of $75 this year for City services. The total tax-supported 2011 budget is $2.4 billion in operating spending and $622 million in new capital spending. The Ottawa Public Library Board and the Ottawa Police Services Board have also adopted budgets in line with 2.5%. Budget 2011 public consultations throughout February and early March were extensive and included: public delegations at Standing Committee meetings, five multi-ward consultations attended by the Mayor, area Councillors and senior management, and the Mayor’s Spending Control Town Hall Meeting. Highlights of Budget 2011 include: Freezing of recreation fees for activities for the first time since amalgamation; 22 front line paramedics with two new, fully equipped ambulances and two new technicians to keep the ambulances on the streets; $10 million investment in Housing and Poverty Reduction initiatives that is in addition to a $4 million capital investment for housing initiatives; $161 million towards projects and programs to improve and streamline the bus system; Provisions to expand the free transit period for seniors from Wednesdays only to include Mondays and Fridays after 12 noon (beginning in April); 74 new bus drivers to improve service and reduce overtime; $500,000 funding envelope for priority environmental initiatives; $2.8 million per year for new cycling initiatives across the city, including the Laurier Ave. segregated lane; $2 million allocated for economic development initiatives; Capital spending plan that focuses on transit investments, the renewal of roads and sewers and new parks and recreation facilities; Advances key initiatives including: the Ottawa River Action Plan, Light Rail $650K for the design of the Albert St. Rehabilitation Project. Despite key investments in areas such as cycling, poverty reduction and housing, several important programs and projects were either deferred or fell below the cutoff line in this year’s budget including: the Somerset St. bicycle/pedestrian underpass $1.6M, a $450K increase to community agency funding, several local sidewalk rehabilitation projects and pedestrian initiatives, including staff resources. I will continue to work with staff, partner agencies, community groups and local neighbourhoods to ensure that these important initiatives are included in the 2012 budget.