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Regional budget guidelines released

Proposed tax increase would see homeowner pay an extra $50 in 2017

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

With budget season around the corner, the Region of Durham’s finance department has released its guidelines for 2017.

Due to be presented at today’s (Oct. 5) meeting of the committee of the whole, Jim Clapp, the region’s finance commissioner, is recommending that property tax increases in Durham Region not exceed two per cent, assuming a one per cent assessment growth.

“What that means to the average regional taxpayer is about a $50 increase,” Clapp says.

The finance commissioner adds that number could potentially change for some homeowners, as 2017 is a reassessment year for home values.

“There are tax implications from reassessment,” he says.

“Some properties will see reassessment increases, others will see reassessment decreases. The final numbers aren’t known for reassessment yet because we haven’t heard back on the commercial/industrial reassessment.”

Clapp adds that, on average, homeowners in Durham will see an increase in their properties of approximately one per cent.

The guidelines also call for a three per cent cap on increases for Durham police, meaning the force’s budget should not go above $193.1 million; seven per cent for Durham Region Transit, putting its budget no higher than $51.9 million; 2.5 per cent for each of the region’s conservation authorities; and three per cent for the Durham Regional Local Housing Corporation’s operations budget, and nine per cent for its capital program.

Clapp is also calling for a review of regional fees and charges “be undertaken by the finance department, in consultation with all departments, to ensure appropriate cost recovery,” according to a report attached to the commissioner’s upcoming presentation.

The finance commissioner says that the two-per-cent benchmark was decided on as it allows for inflationary increases in department spending, but does not add a huge burden to the average taxpayer.

“Economics are such that the growth is not wild as it was five, six years ago, so we try to make it affordable. That’s the goal,” he says, adding that there are no planned program cuts or reductions as a result of this budget.

“We set the goal of making our taxes competitive, especially to the west, from a business perspective, and just recognizing that in this economy that we’re in, there’s a lot of good things happening in Durham, but there’s a lot of folks in situations where the economy hasn’t been kind. So we try to recognize that the overall economy is not booming, shall we say.”

Assuming everything goes to schedule, Clapp says the budget will come to committee of the whole in early February 2017, and hopefully passed by council the following week.