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Two per cent guideline eyed for regional budget

Council will see department budgets beginning next month

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

After a marathon meeting of Durham’s finance administration committee, it is recommended regional council aim for a two per cent property tax increase in 2020.

For the average Durham resident, this would represent an increase of $68 to $75 on their tax bill.

Half of the increase would go to Durham Regional Police Services (DRPS), and the other spread out among other departments.

According to Nancy Taylor, the region’s commissioner of finance, the proposed 2020 property tax guideline was determined after consultation with CAO Elaine Baxter-Trahair, DRPS, Durham Region Transit, and other regional departments.

Staff looked at a detailed review of departments and agencies, operating pressures, 2020-2029 capital priorities, risks and uncertainties with respect to service delivery.

Originally staff recommended adding leeway of up to 0.75 per cent for the property tax increase in order to maintain service levels after any funding reductions from the province.

However, the committee nixed this, and told staff to include the possibility of reductions in the two per cent guideline.

DRPS has its budget increase capped out at 3.2 per cent.

Conservation authorities, such as the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority, can increase operations budgets by 2.5 per cent, and special programs budgets by 1.5 per cent, similar to previous years.

“Our challenge here is… they are also subject to some significant issues happening with respect to provincial legislation,” Taylor told the committee. “We’ve literally, for conservation authorities, stuck with the status quo in the meantime until some things can be determined there.”

However, Oshawa’s Ward 5 city and regional councillor Brian Nicholson questioned why DRPS needs such a large increase to their budget, noting he wanted to see an increase only if it went to adding more frontline officers.

Scugog Mayor Bobbie Drew pointed out part of the increase to DRPS’ budget is because the local service is requesting to add 29 police officers.

“When we were pounding the doors last fall, what all of us heard over and over again was safety, police presence, speeding, and aggressive driving,” she explained.

She adds the region is doing that with its Vision Zero road safety plan and the additional police officers.

Regional departments will bring their recommendations for the 2020 budget to regional council next month and into next year before the final budget is approved.

Regional council will vote on the suggested tax guideline on Oct. 23.