On Tuesday, May 30, 2023, Kingston City Council as the Committee of the Whole will be asked to formally approve the 2023-2026 Strategic Plan, along with an implementation strategy for the various priorities included in the document. According to a staff report circulating ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the plan represents the strategic priorities identified by members of Council during planning meetings conducted earlier this year.
“During the last week of March, City Council met in Committee of the Whole over the course of three evenings to work through strategic priorities for 2023-2026,” notes the report. At the conclusion of the planning sessions, Councillors approved four foundational elements of the plan, which, after feedback from City staff, resulted in the following five guiding pillars for the document:
- Support housing affordability;
- Lead environmental stewardship and climate action;
- Build an active and connected community
- Foster a caring and inclusive community; and
- Drive inclusive economic growth
On top of the guiding pillars, councillors also identified five foundational principles, which will help City staff deliver on the organizational priorities of the City. The foundational principles are as follows:
- Invest in the organization’s capacity;
- Invest in process improvement;
- Maintain financial stability;
- Advance Indigenization, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (EDI) in the corporation; and
- Continue to advance community partnerships and advocacy with other levels of government
The report notes that City staff will provide annual updates to Council “on internal initiatives that are critical to the organization’s success in delivering on
commitments for this term of Council.” Throughout the remainder of the term, staff will also be tracking the progress of the various commitments included in the plan, with members of the public able to access updates to all priorities and initiatives through the CIty’s public dashboard, according to the document, which is authored by CAO Lanie Hurdle.
In terms of how the guiding pillars and foundational principles have influenced the official 2023-2026 Strategic Plan document, the accompanying staff report includes a number of projects and other initiatives under each of the five pillars, with each goal containing its own timeline and measurables.
As for how Council will support housing affordability, the proposed Strategic Plan notes a commitment to “Increase [the] overall supply of housing of all forms, price points and tenures, to the degree that [they] are able.” Over the next four years, the City will target “4,800 residential permits” to be issued for the construction of new housing, 10 per cent of which will be affordable housing units.
According to the staff report, the target of 4,800 permits “exceeds the provincial housing pledge of 8,000 affordable housing solutions over the next ten years.” However, the City’s target is in line with the expectations of the Federal Housing Reserve Fund. The report also notes the target is an “aggressive” one, as the City has only exceeded 1,200 annual permits twice, in 2020 and 2021.
As for the second pillar, “lead environmental stewardship and climate action,” the Strategic Plan includes commitments for the City of Kingston to “become a green city and take steps to address the climate change crisis.” Included in the climate action pillar is a goal to explore a potential increase to the City’s corporate carbon target. “The current corporate carbon budget target is to achieve a reduction of 30 per cent by 2030,” the report notes. The plan directs staff to explore options to change the target to 40 or 50 per cent by 2030, with a report to be presented to Council by Q4 2023.
Where the commitment to build “an active and connected community” is concerned, the Strategic Plan calls on the City to spend $35 million on road repairs over the next four years. “This proposed targeted spending would allow the City to address poor road conditions — most of which are local roads,” notes the staff report. The report goes on to suggest the additional spending would be financed by a one per cent capital levy. With an increased focus on road repairs over the next four years, the report notes other capital projects will likely be reduced during this time.
In terms of the commitment to “foster a caring and inclusive community,” the Strategic Plan includes targets related to topics such as community safety and increased access to healthcare professionals. In order to address issues related to food insecurity, the plan includes a commitment to “review community garden policies and coordinating by-laws, with a view of removing barriers to urban food production.” To address the ongoing shortage of family physicians in the city, the proposed plan also includes a commitment to “explore innovative approaches and partnership opportunities to attract healthcare professionals to the city.”
Lastly, in relation to the fifth and final pillar, “drive inclusive economic growth,” the proposed 2023-2026 Strategic Plan includes goals related to the City’s supply of “employment lands,” as well as a diversification of Kingston’s economy. Where employment lands are concerned, the plan directs staff to explore opportunities to increase the supply of land available for employment, which the document notes could include potential “mega sites.” The Strategic Plan also includes an Airport Master Plan, to be completed by Q4 2024, which will evaluate “policies, programs, and services” to support the further use of Kingston Airport, which currently sits without a major carrier.
Where economic diversity is concerned, the plan includes various goals related to health innovation, as well as projects and grants to support the City’s artists and entrepreneurs.
With lofty goals for the City over the next four years, staff have also outlined how the strategic priorities will be funded. According to the report, as part of the 2023 budget process, staff already presented operating forecasts for the City’s various departments, through 2026. “Staff will update future operating and
capital budgets as part of the annual budget process, to support strategic priorities,” the report says. To minimize the need for any potential tax increases related to the implementation of the Strategic Plan, City staff will also continue to explore grants and other funding opportunities.
In order to implement the goals of the strategic plan, staff are also recommending a number of additional action items, such as an update to the City’s 15-year capital expenditure plans, to reflect the priorities of Council. Where tax rates are concerned, the accompanying staff report recommends annual tax increases be capped at 3.5 per cent, when developing 2024-2027 draft budgets. The proposed maximum assumes an average annual growth of at least one per cent, as well as stable service levels throughout the next four years, with “no major transfer of responsibilities from the Provincial Government,” notes the report.
The proposed 2023-2026 Strategic Plan will be presented to Council for debate during a special meeting on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. At the meeting, councillors will have the opportunity to question staff and debate the proposed changes, including the new guiding pillars as recommended by City staff.
Tuesday night’s meeting will be held at the St. Lawrence College Event, Banquet, and Conference Centre, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Unlike most City Council meetings, the special meeting will not be livestreamed to the City Council YouTube channel, due to the fact it is being held off-site, City of Kingston staff confirmed with Kingstonist on Friday, May 26, 2023.