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Region approves 2020 budget

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Residents can expect a 2.42 per cent increase on the regional portion of their residential taxes.
That means a $65 increase for a home valued at about $483,000 for the $1.44 billion 2020 regional budget, approved by Durham Regional council.
Before heading to regional council, the budget passed through the finance and administration committee, which voted to add 20 additional police officers for this year.
However, the planning and economic committee voted to overturn a potential savings of $206,397 when they decided to keep paying Toronto Global, an organization mandated to bring international business to the region.
While council ultimately passed the motion to keep the funds for Toronto Global 18-8, both sides agreed the organization needs to do more for the region.
Oshawa’s Ward 4 city and regional councillor Rick Kerr has been vocal about his support for Toronto Global in the past. He noted there’s been a big change in Durham Region as Metrolinx recently approved an expansion to the Lakeshore East line.
“Durham Region is on the cusp of a boom, and it’s not just [the GO project],” said Kerr, citing a number of projects, as well as pointing out regional staff have also lent their support to the project.
Maurice Brenner, a councillor from Pickering, was the first to put his support behind Toronto Global, telling council that working with the organization needs to be viewed in a “broader context,” noting Durham Region, Ontario and Canada as a whole are in a “time of competition.”
“If we expect to be an economic driver, we need to be at the table,” he said.
However, while there were 18 councillors who voted to keep funding Toronto Global, there were eight others who voted no, including Ajax councillor Sterling Lee.
Lee has been against working with the organization since he first joined council this term.
He acknowledged that foreign investment is a difficult task, but he believes the region’s own staff is doing a better job of bringing in foreign business, noting Toronto Global has brought in no jobs, and the region is in the second year of a three-year contract with them.
“[Even if we’re at the table,] we’re getting the crumbs, not the meal,” said Lee.
Oshawa’s Ward 2 city and regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri also expressed his displeasure with the organization. He noted while he thinks concerns are valid on both sides, he wants to look at the returns on the region’s investment.
“I think the return on what we’ve received hasn’t really yielded for taxpayers what we expected,” he said.
Marimpietri said he wants to see the money invested into the region rather than into Toronto Global.
“At this point, even if they do come through with an investment and it’s five jobs, think of how much we’ve invested so far,” said Lee.
Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier said he believes even though his motion to dismiss Toronto Global’s funding at finance and administration committee didn’t pass, it still sends a strong message to the organization that they need to do better.
Of the $1.44 billion in the region’s budget, 27.4 per cent will go to social services, 17.2 per cent to solid waste, and 16.7 per cent to police. The remaining 38.7 per cent will go towards roads and bridges, transit, public health and more.
Late last year, Oshawa city council approved a 2.03 per cent increase for their 2020 budget, adding $42.65 to the average tax bill of a property assessed at $356,000.
The Durham District School Board has yet to approve its 2020 tax rate.