Corp Comm Connects


2015 Budget - Regional money matters

Feb. 11, 2015
By Leah Wong

The municipal budget process is underway across the GTA. For new municipal leaders this is one of their first major decisions in their term of office.

Through the budget proposals we can chart municipal planning priorities and the changing workloads of planning teams. However, planning services are organized in a variety of ways and can be spread across a range of departments. As a result, the level of detail varies and cross- municipal comparators are not easily found.

With many municipal governments focused on keeping property tax increases at around the rate of inflation, staff members have completed line-by-line reviews of their budgets to see where efficiencies can be found.

Every municipality organizes its budget in a different way and takes a different approach to hearing budget presentations. There is also a different timetable for budget approvals. Halton Region approved its budget at the end of January, while the other three GTA regional municipalities are just starting to hear staff presentations.

Check back for York Region and Durham Region’s proposed planning budgets.

Halton Region council wrapped up its budget process late last month by approving its 2015 Budget and Business Plan.

Budget presentations were made to the relevant standing committees. The planning services and public works department budgets were presented to the planning and public works committee.

Council approved the planning and public works tax-supported budgets: $94.9-million net operating, of which $9.325-million is the planning base budget, and $122.8-million capital.

The 2015 planning budget represents a 3.7 per cent increase over 2014. At the January 14 planning and public works budget meeting, legislative and planning services commissioner Mark Meneray presented the planning portion of the budget.

The planning division priorities this year include completing the final phase of hearings concerning the region’s growth plan conformity official plan amendment, releasing the work plan for the five-year review of the official plan and completing the Burlington Waterfront Master Plan and waterfront park acquisition strategy. The division is seeking to maintain its staff complement of 50 full-time equivalents.

One of the strategic investments approved for the planning department is a pilot project to prepare area servicing plans for targeted employment areas in the local municipalities. This has a $1-million price tag and is to be funded through development charges.

The pilot will ensure employment lands are investment ready and urban growth centres have the necessary infrastructure for intensifi ation. Servicing plans have traditionally been completed by landowners, but Meneray said there are often delays in preparing them or they have been ignored altogether.

“This can cause businesses to look elsewhere, or to lands that are 100 per cent shovel ready,” said Meneray.

The public works department’s rate supported operating budget of $173.3-million and capital budget of $193.9-million were also approved. Rates are anticipated to increase in a similar manner as last year.

“The state of good repair is a significant driver in these rate increases,” finance commissioner and regional treasurer Mark Scinocca told committee. Of the projected 4.9 per cent rate increase, he said more than half is required to support the state of good repair.

Of the region’s $3.2-billion 10-year capital forecast, $2.9-billion relates to water, wastewater, waste management and transportation.

The 5.5 per cent increase in funding for public works will be used to address the division’s 2015 priorities. Public works commissioner Jim Harnum told committee his division’s priorities include responding to climate change, investing in the transportation network and staff succession planning.

Council approved eight new positions in the public works department.