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Tuesday's planning committee discussion on the 2016 draft budget was the longest one chair Jan Harder has seen thanks to councillors grilling staff on a reserve fund that now tops $35 million.
The fund is intended to help cover the city's costs of doing building inspections and other Ontario Building Code enforcement in years when revenues from building and demolition permits are down.
The City of Ottawa has been taking in more fees than it needs to cover expenses for enough years that a fund that was worth $21 million five years ago now has $35 million.
"Imagine if you had two years of your household budget sitting in the bank. You'd probably be very okay with that," said Coun. Steven Blais.
The money cannot be moved to other branches of the city to cover shortfalls because of provincial legislation, said Blais. Instead, he would like to see the City consider offering short-term rebates on the fees charged for permits.
Although the planning committee frequently discusses large towers downtown, Blais said the vast proportion of development takes place in the suburbs and that work has dropped significantly for small contractors.
Coun. Allan Hubley agreed.
"We've way overcharged. I think we need to take this opportunity and act quickly to provide some sort of stimulus to the industry," he said.
"Maybe we could get some work going by the next season, which would be next spring."
Acting Deputy City Manager John Moser promised a report on the reserve fund and the fee structure by the end of March 2016.
by Kate Porter at CBC