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Investing in infrastructure: Barrie sets dedicated levy to speed project completion

March 18, 2015
By Leah Wong

Barrie has established a new, dedicated funding source to pay for timely upkeep of the city’s infrastructure.

At its March 9th meeting Barrie council approved a 3.19 per cent tax increase, with 1 per cent earmarked for a new Dedicated Infrastructure Renewal Fund that allows the city to take a “pay as you go” approach to infrastructure. With a special fund for new and upgraded infrastructure, city officials hope to complete critical work faster than before.

Other municipalities such as Oakville and Halton Hills utilize a similar tool to fund infrastructure. If used to reduce debt, the fund could decrease the debt issued by $252-million by 2027 and debt charges by $239-million by 2031 according to staff.

Council approved a $199-million net operating budget and a $65-million capital budget for 2015. The capital budget includes $39-million for new capital requests.

Infrastructure accounts for 51 per cent of the capital budget. This year, Barrie plans to convert streetlights to LED to reduce energy use and maintenance costs; add traffic calming measures; reconstruct and widen several roads; and work on the Memorial Square revitalization project.

Approximately 11 per cent of the capital budget is related to growth projects in the city’s annexed lands, including environmental assessment and design costs for the construction or implementation of the secondary plan.

The infrastructure and growth management division has a net operating budget of $45.4-million with a staff complement of 252 for 2015. The division’s budget, up 8 per cent from 2014, includes funding for 17 additional positions mostly in the roads, parks and fleet department.

Barrie’s planning department accounts for $1.26-million of the division budget and has a 17-person staff. The department will add one position in 2015, but its budget request is lower as a result of increased revenue from licence, permit and application fees and an anticipated increase in the volume of applications.

The department‘s two branches - development control and policy planning - account for 40 and 60 per cent of the operating budget respectively.

The major initiatives for the department include development of a new official plan; preparation of an affordable housing strategy; and development and implementation of strategies for brownfield redevelopment and a development permit system. Also on the department’s agenda are several downtown development projects that are part of the Downtown Commercial Master Plan and Intensification Strategy as well as implementation of urban design standards in areas designated for intensification.