Municipal taxes go up two per cent

Barrie taxpayers will pay an additional two per cent in municipal taxes following city council’s adoption of a budget which produced the smallest tax hike in 15 years.
The increase means an additional $74.58 for a Barrie home assessed at $277,000. The budget follows a process in which a series of cuts to the proposed capital and operating budgets were made.
“We set out to deliver an affordable plan that addresses the priorities we hear from residents, and I think we’ve achieved that,” says Mayor Jeff Lehman. “We’re facing huge pressures when it comes to balancing the costs of managing growth, investing in our existing infrastructure and delivering the over 60 City services residents rely on us for, while keeping taxes low. This budget is a step towards achieving financial sustainability for the City, but there is a lot of work still to do to find a path that is truly sustainable.”
Increased costs for services include water rates, which jumps two per cent, lower than the seven per cent originally sought. Sewer rates are going up 12 per cent. For a typical household using 180 cubic metres of water, this equates to an increase of $43 a year.
The capital plan rings in at about $150 million, and includes a focus on fixing roads and infrastructure. Major projects include improvements to the highway interchange at Cundles Road and Duckworth Street, reconstruction of Dunlop Street West from Anne to Eccles, the ongoing realignment of Lakeshore Drive, landfill re-engineering Project (Phase 3), advanced nutrient removal at the Wastewater Treatment Facility, construction of a new transit garage, and bus replacements.
What’s new to the capital plan this year? The Neighbourhood Renewal Program will get more funding for road resurfacing and aging infrastructure, and a new project, the North Shore A Renewal, will repave all roads in a neighbourhood in Barrie’s east end. Money to renew and rebuild roads, sidewalks and streetlights in existing neighbourhoods, was also made available. The Neighbourhood Renewal Program will be included in future capital budgets, with an annual base funding of $500,000.
The business plan also contains measures to erase Barrie’s $814,000 parking deficit. They include a 25-cent per hour increase in metered parking fees and a $5 per month increase for parking at the Collier Street Parkade. Both changes will come into effect April 30, 2014. Council also approved a motion to introduce paid parking along Barrie’s waterfront for non-residents. Beginning in June 2014, visitors to the waterfront will be charged $3 per hour, up to a $15 daily maximum, or will be able to purchase passes for regular use. Barrie residents will be issued a special pass that would allow them to park for free. Additional details about these changes will be issued in the coming months.
It’s going to cost taxpayers $1.2 million to service the debt, an amount that was reduced after council decided to use funds from reserves.
Following council’s move to sell 20 per cent of the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport to the County of Simcoe for $1.3 million, costs from the city’s service partners were “off-set.” The money will help pay the bill from county services provided to Barrie, including ambulance and social services. The City now owns 60 per cent of the airport.
Of the residential property tax bill, 16 per cent is for school boards, 49 per cent funds City services, while 35 per cent goes to the City’s service partners such as the Barrie Police Service, the Barrie Public Library, and services delivered by the County. The plan will be financed by a combination of property taxes, user fees and other financing sources.
Click here for the 2014 Business Plan.

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