How the City budget affects your property taxes

The City budget helps to determine the amount of property taxes you pay to the City each year. If you are a home, business or property owner, you will pay your property taxes in two annual instalments. Even if you are a tenant, a portion of your rent will go toward paying the property taxes on the building in which you reside.

Components of property taxes

Three factors influence the amount of property taxes you pay, only one of which the City has control over:

  • Property tax rate – set by City Council every year when it approves the budget.
  • Assessed value of property – determined by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.
  • Education rate – set by Province.

Your residential property taxes are calculated using this formula:

  • Assessed value x municipal property tax rate = amount of municipal property tax
  • Assessed value x education tax rate = amount of education property tax
  • Municipal property tax + education property tax = your property taxes*

*Please note that, if applicable, other charges such as local improvements, municipal drains or business area improvement charges might be added to the tax bill.

What you get for your property taxes

The City of Ottawa provides many vital services to residents each day, which have a direct impact on the quality of life that residents expect. Almost one third of your property tax bill is effectively set or mandated by the Province. Education taxes are set by the Province and collected by the City. As well, employment and financial assistance (Ontario Works) and affordable housing are provincially mandated programs that the City is required to administer. City Council has a very limited or no control over these items.

Want to know what you get for $1,000 in property taxes?

ServicesUrban AreaRural with
OC Transpo Service
Rural with
Para Transpo Service
Transit & Para Transpo1475115
Police135156162
Capital Financing104121125
Roads & Traffic809296
Fire774748
Program Support576669
Parks/Recreation/Culture698084
Social Housing*465456
Garbage/Recycling **283233
Library202324
Social Services*141617
Paramedics161919
Planning/Economic/Environment141616
Child Care*899
Public Health*677
Long Term Care*567
Municipal Property Assessment Corporation*566
Non Municipal Tax Supported Services   
Provincial Education*164191198
Conservation Authorities677
1,0001,0001,000

*Provincial Mandated Programs
**Includes special charge for Solid Waste

How the City of Ottawa compares

Taxation increases for major Canadian cities 2011 to 2018

City20112012201320142015201620172018TotalComp. Total
Ottawa2.45%2.39%2.09%1.91%2.0%2.0%2.0%2.0%16.84%18.13%
Toronto0%2.5%2.0%2.23%2.75%1.3%3.29%2.91%16.98%18.25%
Edmonton3.85%5.393.3%4.92%5.7%4.1%3.1%3.2%31.96%36.74%
Calgary4.60%6%5.5%5.0%*4.2%6.1%0%3.8%35.2%40.95%
Vancouver2.0%2.84%2.0%1.9%2.4%2.3%3.9%4.24%21.58%23.7%

Comp total = Compounded Total
*City of Calgary: tax increase mitigated by 1-time rebate of $52 million

Why our City’s excellent credit rating is good for you

The City of Ottawa is rated AA+ by Standard and Poor’s Rating Services and Aaa by Moody’s Investor Services – the highest possible credit rating. 

The City’s credit ratings are based on a number of factors including debt levels, reserve fund balances, capital funding requirements, long-range planning and economic outlook and reflect strong fiscal outcomes and prudent financial management.

The City of Ottawa’s excellent credit rating helps investors and creditors measure the City’s ability to meet its financial obligations.  Excellent credit ratings mean that it is less expensive for the City to borrow money. The City’s lower costs for capital improvements can be passed on to you as a property taxpayer and as a stakeholder. 

Basic Budget Information

Budget basics

Every year, the City of Ottawa produces a municipal budget. One of the City’s most important documents, the budget is the blueprint that defines how resources are collected and allocated. The overall budget comprises two main components – the Operating Budget and the Capital Budget.

Operating Budget

Every City program and service is funded through the City’s operating budget, which is designed to ensure the dependable delivery of a broad array of programs and services that residents rely on every day. Your municipal government is responsible for emergency services (fire, police and paramedics), roads, clean water, parks and recreation, public health programs, garbage and recycling programs, libraries and the buses that take residents to work and home. The Operating Budget funds all this and much more.

To keep Ottawa both affordable and prosperous, City staff needs to determine how best to deliver all these services while balancing revenues and expenditures. Given Ottawa’s size, that’s not as simple as it might sound.

Ottawa is one of the largest cities in Canada – larger than the areas of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton combined. Ottawa covers an area of 2,760 square kilometres. Only 10 per cent of that is urban while the remaining 90 per cent is agricultural land, villages, marginal and forested lands, and wetlands. Given the sheer scale of the city, it’s no wonder that a majority of City funds are spent on delivering existing services, many of which are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Capital Budget

In order to progress and grow, Ottawa must also look beyond simply providing existing services. A City needs to be guided by a clear and overarching vision of what it is to become.

City infrastructure is funded through the Capital Budget. The bulk of that funding goes to maintaining and rehabilitating existing infrastructure as identified in the Comprehensive Asset Management analysis. As funding allows, the City continues to fund growth, building new infrastructure and investing in the future. The City adds between $600 million and $800 million worth of new capital to Ottawa’s existing asset base every year – from buses and vehicles to water pipes, , roads to trunk sewers, from street lighting to libraries. These are investments that residents and businesses will benefit from for years to come and which contribute to the growth of Ottawa’s economy and quality of life.

The Capital budget also funds Council’s Strategic Initiatives, which support the Term of Council Priorities.

Developing the budget

With direction from Council, the City’s Finance Department is responsible for assisting departments in developing their detailed draft budgets every year. A series of budgets are tabled, broken down by category so that the various City Committees responsible can review and discuss what is proposed and ensure everything included complies with existing City plans.

The City must maintain a balanced operating budget. The Municipal Act prohibits the City from running a deficit on operating expenditures. The city can only borrow funds and incur debt for the Capital Budget.

Programs delivered by the City can be segregated into the following major categories. The amount of budgetary discretion that City Council has over the services listed under these various categories varies significantly: 

  • User-Funded (e.g., water and sewer, parking, garbage collection): These programs are funded entirely by the residents who use them. Revenues from user fees must be used to maintain related operations and capital.
  • Non-discretionary (e.g., long-term care, public health, social services, debt charges): These items are provincially legislated and the City is obliged to fund the related operations and capital.
  • Limited Discretion (e.g., policing): The police budget is developed by the Police Services Board. Council has no discretion except to refuse to approve it. Council does, however, work closely with the Police Services Board as the budget is developed.
  • Programs with Service Standards (e.g., transit, paramedics): Programs that have to meet minimum expected standards, like wait times, carry a minimum cost associated with maintaining that standard. Any improvement to that standard will require additional costs.
  • Direct Service Programs (e.g., Libraries, Parks & Recreation): There is some room to alter funding among these programs, but any changes affect the level of service delivered.
  • Support Services (e.g., Governance, Finance, Communications): These programs are essential both in supporting the departments that deliver direct services and in providing administrative oversight in running the business of the Corporation.

During development of the operating and capital budgets, Council has some flexibility for reallocating or reprioritizing funds between programs and services to address emerging issues. Given these limits on discretion and the financial realities of limiting tax increases to residents, it is difficult to address all these issues or to implement significant changes from year to year.  For information regarding the current budget breakdown, see our additonal Budget Pages.