2021 budget


The budget is our annual financial plan and is the primary basis of financial decision making. The budget process allows council to prioritize the programs and services we deliver and sets direction for the work to be completed over the upcoming year.

Read the final budget package

On this page:

  1. Household impact
  2. Key dates
  3. Budget overview
  4. Budget documents

Household impact

The spread of COVID-19 is creating financial challenges for people and businesses across our community. We've taken steps throughout 2020 to give financial relief to residents and reduce the financial impact of the pandemic without changing the services that residents rely on every day.

At the same time, we're still committed to advance the priorities that matter to Kitchener residents through the shared goals of our strategic plan.

For the average household in Kitchener, the proposed rate increases for 2021 are:

  • Property tax increase: 1.1 per cent or $12 per year
  • Water utilities increase: 0.9 per cent or $11 per year
  • Gas increase: 1.5 per cent or $11 per year
  • Total impact: $34 per year

These yearly cost estimates are based on a bungalow with an assessed average of $326,000, our current average.

Key dates

  • Operating budget day: Monday, November 30
  • Public input daytime session: Monday, December 7
  • Capital budget day: Monday, December 14
  • Public input evening session: Monday, December 14
  • Budget survey closes: Friday, January 8, 2021
  • Final budget day: Monday, January 18, 2021

You can register as a delegation for one of our public input sessions.

Budget overview

This is the lowest proposed property tax rate increase in a decade and follows our policy of increases at or below the two-year inflation average. To fully explain the context of our 2021 budget, we need to talk about the past, present and future.

The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything that has happened in most of our lifetimes. In addition to the immediate health concerns that it represents for individuals, it already has, and is expected to continue to have, wide-reaching economic impacts on many individuals and organizations. We are not immune to the effects of the pandemic, which has negatively impacted our financial position. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most significant financial challenges municipalities have ever faced.

Our COVID-19 financial response

Before 2020, we worked to reduce overall debt levels, built up funding in reserves, and have been judicious in hiring staff. These actions have created financial capacity that is now being used to offset the pressures caused by the pandemic without resorting to more drastic measures like eliminating programs and services that are valued by the community. 

The financial impacts of COVID-19 are significant. Most notably, recreational program revenue losses for 2020 are estimated to be almost $8 million.

To mitigate financial losses in 2020, we:

  • placed 900 temporary staff (43% of workforce) on unpaid declared emergency leave
  • deferred $21 million of capital spending to address cash flow concerns
  • reduced overtime where possible and reallocating staff to support the delivery of critical services
  • returned $1.3 million in capital funding to the operating budget to address operating related shortfalls
  • put a freeze on discretionary spending, resulting in $1.1M in savings
  • required staff to fully use vacation balances to avoid more staffing related measures
  • planned to use stabilization reserves to offset projected deficits

Even with these efforts, we were still projecting a $7.1M tax-supported deficit for 2020 and a $11.1M overall shortfall for our municipal operations.

Looking ahead to 2021

The 2021 budget is much different from previous years due to the financial realities of COVID-19. The goal of the 2021 budget is to continue to support existing services for the community through the lowest increase possible. Recognizing the significant financial challenges that many are currently facing, we are proposing minimal rate increases as shown in the graphic to the right.

These proposed increases are the lowest household impact in more than a decade, and are only possible through these actions in 2021:

  • deferring nearly 20% of planned tax capital spending to help address a projected $8.45M operating revenue shortfall
  • fully using the remaining balances in stabilization reserve to offset one-time impacts where possible
  • continuing efforts aimed at reducing overall spending and costs without impacting services

Budget documents

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