City hall blog: Watson rejects integrity allegation, maintains ‘Christmas miracle’ didn’t come earlier

Ottawa_Citizen_logo-1-e1476901266545There’s a good chance Mayor Jim Watson will receive a call from the integrity commissioner about the “Christmas miracle.”

Watson chairs the budget review board, which is named as the subject of Robert Marleau’s inquiry.

We received a preview on Wednesday of what the mayor might tell Marleau should the integrity watchdog call.

Watson rejected any allegation that the budget review board withheld information about a 2017 surplus, $10 million of which was announced as available for 2018 infrastructure repair just before council approved the 2018 budget in December.

Coun. Catherine McKenney, one of the councillors who was prepared to support an infrastructure tax in the 2018 budget, filed the complaint.

The surplus came from more properties paying taxes to the city. According to Watson, the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. confirmed the additional assessments in December.

“We’ve confirmed several times the information on the increased assessment was not given to the budget review board at their meeting and the first we got hold of it was, I think, three days or so before the council meeting and that was confirmed by MPAC as well. They send out the rolls,” Watson said. “Our staff and council and the budget review board would never have had that information at their meeting in November.”

Watson tried to decipher what Coun. Allan Hubley meant when the councillor said in a radio interview that the budget review board knew about a trending surplus a month before the 2018 budget vote in December.

“I think what Coun. Hubley was saying was that there was a general discussion that we think there would be an increase in assessment,” Watson said.

“We always know there’s going to be some increase because every year more houses get built and when the house keys are turned over to the homeowner, property tax kicks in then. He didn’t mention anything specifically about a number of $10 million because I didn’t know it, he didn’t know it, the staff didn’t know it at that point.”

Asked if he thought he or the budget review board should have told council about a potential surplus for 2017, Watson said it makes no sense telling council if there’s no number to share.

View the article on The Ottawa Citizen website here.