NIAGARA REGION, March 4, 2011 – Niagara Region held the line on taxes and residents will see a decrease in Regional taxes this year, after it passed its 2011 net operating budget of $282.8 million and capital budget of $135.2 million. On average a homeowner with a property assessed at $210,000 would pay about $1,320; a decrease of $18.35 from the 2010 tax levy.
The budget actually represents a total tax levy increase of 0.10 per cent over 2010, but after assessment growth of 1.47 per cent, residents will see a decrease in property taxes of almost 1.37 per cent. Water, wastewater and waste management requisition rates were also approved last night. Water will see a zero per cent increase, wastewater a 1.7 per cent increase and waste management a 2.4 per cent increase.
“Regional Council and staff have addressed the important issues of affordability, transparency and accountability in this budget,” said Regional Chair Gary Burroughs. “This year, two pre-budget community forums were held and the public was invited to speak at all regularly scheduled Budget Review Committee meetings. It is a critical time for our region and we must do everything we can to achieve a balance between protecting the programs and services that residents have come to rely upon and ensuring residents can afford to pay for them,” concluded Burroughs.
“During these challenging economic times, this budget responds to the increased demands on our programs and services, such as Ontario Works case loads, Emergency Medical Services, arbitrated salary settlements, and statutory employee related costs,” said Councillor Dave Augustyn, Chair of the Budget Review Committee of the Whole. “The 2011 Operating Budget limits or reduces operational costs through such things as freezing compensation for non-union staff and Councillors, and investing provincial uploading. The 2011 Capital Budget addresses and rationalizes the Region’s current infrastructure demands, keeping spending within an affordability target,” concluded Augustyn.
This year’s budget incorporates a number of initiatives and services designed to improve the responsiveness and effectiveness of the Region and support Regional Council’s four year business plan. Among them are investments in key areas, such as:
- Investing in the Inter municipal transit pilot project;
- Providing a Community Services budget that allows the Region to support an increased volume of residents through the economic downturn;
- Investing in Niagara Health System’s new cancer treatment centre, Brock University’s Cairns Family Health and Bioscience Research Complex, and Niagara College’s Building Futures capital campaign for the Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake campuses;
- Supporting Niagara’s bid to become a Cultural Capital of Canada that would ultimately secure federal funding if successful;
- Investing in a combined Police/Emergency Medical Services facility in Fort Erie;
- Investing in wastewater infrastructure upgrades;
- Investing almost $25 million in Regional roads rehabilitation.
Niagara Region’s budget has two components: the operating budget and the capital budget. The operating budget pays for the daily business of the Niagara Region and its boards and agencies. This budget pays for wages, supplies, programs, services and repayment of debt for major projects. Tax dollars and income from fees and service charges, with support from provincial and/or federal sources fund the operating budget.
Niagara Region serves over 427,000 residents living in 12 area municipalities. The Region’s budget reflects the role of Regional government in providing vital programs and services that support all Niagara residents and businesses. The Region is responsible for such diverse areas as growth management and land use planning; a transportation network, including roads, bridges and traffic signals; water and wastewater treatment; waste collection and management; emergency medical services; public health; children’s services; seniors programs, including long-term care homes; and Ontario Works, to name a few.