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Region sets 2.25 per cent tax increase cap

Increase could mean $59 increase on average tax bill for regional property owners

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Durham Region is aiming to cap its property tax increase at 2.25 per cent for the 2018 budget.

This means the average taxpayer in Durham could pay an additional $59 a year in property taxes, based on the average home assessment of $395,000.

Regional council approved the 2.25 per cent guideline during its Oct. 11 meeting.

“This guideline is affordable and reasonable for both residential and non-residential taxpayers,” Jim Clapp, commissioner of finance said during the meeting.

Clapp noted that property assessment growth has not reached the expected one per cent as of yet.

“Assessment is now tracked in real time. Anecdotally you’d think assessments should be at one per cent, but it isn’t, it’s actually under.”

However, the increase didn’t sit well with all members of council.

Clarington Councillor Joe Neal put forth a motion to lower the guideline to 1.75 per cent, citing that the province would be uploading $8 million in costs next year from the region for Ontario Works benefits and court security costs.

“We have a lot of work to do on the capital side,” Neal commented. “My concern is the growth in assessments and development charges isn’t going to be there as predicted, so we are going have to pay careful attention when [capital budget considerations] come up in February.”

However, Neal’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 19 to 6.

Oshawa Councillors John Neal, Doug Sanders and John Aker voted in favour, while Dan Carter, Nester Pidwerbecki, Bob Chapman and Mayor John Henry were opposed. Amy McQuaid-England was absent during the vote.

Council also approved a number of other guidelines, resolving that the Durham Regional Police Service budget should not exceed $198.9 million (a three per cent increase), Durham Regional Transit’s budget should be $55.8 million or less (a 7.5 per cent increase) and the operating budgets for all conservation authorities in the region should not increase by more than 2.5 per cent.

The 2018 budget for the Durham Region Local Housing Corporation will increase by no more than three per cent, with capital costs capped at a 25 per cent raise.

Clapp was also given the okay to develop a plan to use Federal Gas Tax funds to address the region’s most critical road rehabilitation needs.

With preliminary budget submissions from the region’s departments including $43.4 million in increased operating costs and  $138.9 million in capital projects, Clapp says there could be extensive adjustments before final deliberations in February.

“Certainly management will be in the process of priority setting to identify what can be deferred and what can be continued,” Clapp says.