Region releases its budget; tax increase is less than inflation

News 100 blueBy Staff

February 5, 2015


Last week Regional Council approved the 2015 Budget and Business Plan with a continued focus on investment in the planning and delivery of infrastructure.

“The Region has made it a strategic priority to invest for the future,” said Regional Chair Gary Carr. “That is why we continue to make investments in Regional assets, infrastructure and facilities a priority. The 2015 budget includes a significant investment in infrastructure and an increase in the Region’s investment in the water, wastewater and transportation state-of-good-repair capital programs, from $69 million in 2007 to $110 million.”

Regional - Dundas crossing Bronte Creek

Tucked into the side of Dundas as it crosses Bronte Creek is a huge pipe that carries water across the Region

The 2015 Budget is based on the solid financial planning principles for which Halton is recognized. It continues the Region’s focus on maintaining service levels, making strategic investments and maintaining the tax rate increase for Regional services within the rate of inflation. The 2015 Budget includes a 1.5 per cent increase in property taxes, for Regional programs and services. Highlights include:

Region - waste management

Garbage, water services and the management of waste water are all Regional government responsibilities.

Investments to Maintain Existing Infrastructure
The Region has significant infrastructure assets particularly in the water, wastewater and transportation service areas. The 2015 Budget includes:
• $5.7 million towards Water and Wastewater State-of-Good-Repair, including strengthened customer responses and communications for Water and Wastewater programs; and
• $1.3 million for additional staff resources to operate, maintain and optimize Water and Wastewater systems (Water and Wastewater Maintenance Program).

Connecting People to Services
The Region provides a wide variety of important, high quality services to residents. The 2015 Budget includes over $2.9 million of investments to enhance customer services including:
• $1.0 million for additional staff and vehicles for Paramedic Services;
• $200,000 for Crisis Prevention / COMMANDE, a multi-agency initiative committed to the health and safety of the community by providing real-time, coordinated responses to high-risk situations;
• $652,000 for social housing providers, a Rent Geared to Income (RGI) subsidy of $306,000 and $250,000 towards a Comprehensive Housing Strategy;
• $641,000 in increased funding for Waste Management collection and disposal;
• $125,000 representing additional dollars for the Halton Region Community Investment Fund; and
• $224,000 to enhance Communicable Disease Control in Public Health.

Adapting to Climate Change
Weather patterns have changed over the past few decades with more localized storm events of greater intensity occurring with greater frequency, such as the December 2013 ice storm and the August 2014 flood. These events have highlighted the need to continuously review and identify improvements in Halton Emergency planning and response.

The 2015 Budget includes the following strategic investments:
• $5.0 million towards Wastewater State-of-Good-Repair Capital to assist in the implementation of any potential recommendations of the Region-wide Basement Flooding Mitigation Study;
• $5.5 million towards strengthened Emergency Management including emergency generators in warming and reception centres located in each municipality in the Region; and
• $378,000 for a strategic investment opportunity related to Emergency Management to increase the Region’s capacity to respond to emergencies and urgent incidents including severe weather events that impact the community.

Economic Growth
Achieving economic growth includes development of employments lands. A sufficient supply of serviced employment lands is critical to attracting and retaining businesses. The 2015 Budget provides the following investment:
• $1.0 million towards a Pilot Area Servicing Plan Study for economic development and intensification to be undertaken in each Local Municipality for the advancement of employment lands and Urban Growth Centre intensification.

Financial Stability
A number of adjustments were made to the 2015 Budget to maintain financial stability over the next 10 years.
The budget also includes a 4.9 per cent increase in the 2015 Water and Wastewater Rate. Of the 4.9 per cent increase, 1.1 per cent will fund operating costs of Halton’s water and wastewater systems to keep Halton’s water safe and 3.8 per cent is for investment in treatment plants and pipeline systems.

Region - roads

There are roads that are a Regional responsibility. In some of the regional municipalities there are roads that are part Regional and part municipal. Guelph Line in Burlington is one such road. A reasonable question is – why?

“Surveys show that public satisfaction with Regional services has averaged 98 per cent over the past few years,” added Regional Chair Gary Carr. “The 2015 budget will allow these service levels to be maintained, while ensuring Halton’s AAA credit rating, reaffirmed by Moody’s Investors Service on January 20, 2015. Our well maintained infrastructure, AAA rating and competitive tax rates attract companies and ensure that Halton Region is a great place to live, work, raise a family and retire.”

The Gazette will schedule an interview with Gary Carr the Regional Chair and drill down into the numbers, the longer range vision and how the Region can be expected to evolve twenty years out. We might start by looking back 20 years and seeing where we all were then.

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