Members of regional council have signed off on the 2020 budget, approving a tax increase of 2.42 percent.
An average residential taxpayer in Durham – whose home is assessed around $483,000 – will see an increase of $65 on the regional portion of their tax bill.
“Of this levy increase, about 0.5 per cent is in response to previously announced provincial funding reductions – to ensure programs and service levels, such as childcare, are maintained,” reads a media release from the Region.
The budget, which totals $1.44 billion, ensures programs and service levels are maintained while investments in capital infrastructure and strategic investments are made, the release notes.
“The 2020 Business Plans and Budgets reflect our continued investment in the programs and services that are responsive to community needs,” said John Henry, Regional Chair and Chief Executive Officer.
“As Durham continues to experience rapid and diverse population growth, we are committed to delivering essential services and quality programs.”
The 2020 Business Plans and Budgets were designed in support of several Regional priorities, including responding to growth and affordability pressures; assisting the vulnerable sector; innovating and modernizing operations; investing in infrastructure renewal; and responding to ongoing legislative and regulatory changes.
“Despite the fiscal challenges and pressures facing the municipality, Regional departments have presented sustainable business plans and budgets that enhance front-line services,” said Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster, chair of the Region’s finance and administration committee.
“Together we’re funding strategic investments and infrastructure – all at an affordable rate for the taxpayer.”
“The 2020 budget achieves an affordable, responsible tax levy; and invests in front-line services and strategic investments needed in the region while responding to reductions in provincial funding” added Nancy Taylor, commissioner of finance.
Highlights of the 2020 Business Plans and Budgets include:
Responding to growth and affordability pressures and supporting the vulnerable sector:
– The addition of 12 new paramedics and one new ambulance that will operate along the Highway 401 corridor and increased investment in the Incident Response Unit to provide advanced care paramedic response to critical calls throughout evening hours;
– The Region will undertake a comprehensive Master Housing Strategy, which supports At Home in Durham and also provides for a further $1 million investment to advance the recommendations resulting from the Master Housing Strategy and make progress towards the achievement of Council’s affordable housing targets;
– Investment of $1.5 million for 20 new front-line police officers.
– Durham Region Transit (DRT) will operate more than 13,000 additional hours of conventional and On Demand service (compared to 2019), including the introduction of the Region’s first articulated buses and begin acquisition of the Region’s first zero emission battery electric buses. DRT will continue ridership initiatives from 2019, including Kids Ride Free, Y10 youth 10-month loyalty pass and Transit Assistance Program pilot;
– The introduction of the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP) will be administered by the Durham Region Health Department to improve access to dental care for low income seniors. OSDCP is available to people 65 years of age and older who qualify for service under this program;
– The addition of eight new front-line staff at the Region’s long-term care homes will support residents and ensure levels of care; and,
– A one-time investment in pandemic supplies to ensure stock in case of an outbreak.
Innovating and modernizing operations and administration:
– Increase investment in Durham Vision Zero to reduce the frequency of severe collisions on our roads through a combination of engineering measures (line marking improvements, safety studies, controlled pedestrian crossings, speed management devices, and more);
– Implement the Customer Experience Transformation Project;
– Initiate work and consultation on the design and development of a Regional Community Improvement Plan;
– Advance Transit Oriented Development (TOD) opportunities on key transit co-ordinators, including the establishment of the TOD office; and,
– Implement the Farm 911 Program to improve emergency response times through 911 sign coverage and documentation of property access points.
Accommodating ongoing legislative and regulatory changes:
– The addition of a tobacco enforcement officer to deal with increased enforcement activities, such as cannabis use and the Regional Smoking and Vaping By-law; and,
– Completion of the Region’s Community Safety and Well-Being Plan.
Investing in infrastructure renewal:
– Road widening projects to support growth, including Westney Road in Ajax, from Rossland Road to Taunton; and Thickson Road from Wentworth Street to the CN Rail Bridge in Whitby. Also included is initial work for the planned longer-term widening and realignment of Gibb Street from Stevenson Road to Ritson Road in Oshawa;
– Rehabilitation work to maintain existing road infrastructure is scheduled across the region, including: Concession Road 7, York Durham Line and Zephyr Road in Uxbridge; Centre Street, Simcoe Street, Olive Avenue, Grandview Street North and Columbus Road East in Oshawa; Lake Ridge Road in Scugog/Uxbridge; and Taunton Road and Enfield Road in Clarington;
– Investment of $2.4 million in the Region’s four long-term care homes and equipment;
– Replace telephony and supporting technology infrastructure for emergency 911;
– Investment in several climate change initiatives that will strengthen the resilience of Regional infrastructure and improve the environment; and,
– Grant funding under the Region’s Community Investment Grant Policy to support the expansion of Trent University Durham and Durham College – Whitby Campus, as well as additional funding for the construction of hospices in the region.