Provincial downloading contributes to higher costs for Barrie, council approves property tax hike and more for water and wastewater rates

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Barrie has a budget for 2020. The City is looking at an operating budget of $362 million, and a capital budget of $231 million. It all translates into a 2.96 per cent increase from last year’s numbers.
The City pointed to a number of factors for additional financial pressures, including provincial downloading, funding cuts to public health, county-run social services and city policing. Combined, they added $2.3 million to the City’s 2020 Business Plan & Budget, or .95 per cent to the overall tax increase.  
Broken down, the 2.96 per cent increase includes a 1.96 per cent property tax increase, and a 1 per cent Dedicated Infrastructure Renewal Fund, used to replace and renew Barrie’s roads, pipes and buildings.
For the average Barrie home (includes town homes, apartments and detached homes) assessed at $351,000, this increase translates to an additional $122 annually. The assessed value is provided by MPAC and is different than the market value of homes.
Council also approved a 3.34 per cent increase to water rates and a 4.75 per cent increase to wastewater rates. For a typical Barrie home consuming 180 cubic metres of water annually, the water bill will increase by $11.50 and the wastewater bill will increase by $22.96.
“This was an extremely challenging budget year, especially as we prepare for significant growth in the coming years. Provincial funding cuts left council with the difficult choice to either reduce key community services or find a way to backfill the provincial funding shortfalls,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman.
“Not withstanding these fiscal constraints, council and staff worked hard to provide improved service and invest in priorities like roads, transit, affordable housing and the infrastructure needed to support our growing city, while minimizing the impact to local tax payers.”
The budget includes increased investments in affordable housing, allocating $1 million to a Community Improvement Plan fund to incentivize the creation of affordable housing. The City is also spending more than last year to support affordable housing services delivered by the County of Simcoe. The Connected Core pilot program will continue in 2020. The program works with social services, police and other agencies to deliver coordinated access to outreach, housing, addiction and mental health and other general community services.
The 2020 operating budget also includes funding for increased lifeguard service at Centennial Beach, needle exchange bins and Naloxone kits at various City parks and parking lots and free Barrie Transit service for seniors on Thursdays. A Transit on Demand pilot program will be introduced in 2020 that will use mobile technology to provide flexible routing based on a specific transit user’s travel needs and a Community Bus pilot project will connect customers to a variety of popular destinations along a unique neighbourhood route.
Expanded operation of the Recycling Depot at the Landfill will reduce wait times and increase diversion rates and winter control and downtown maintenance will be improved with six additional staff who will increase service levels. 
Key projects in the 2020 capital budget include the new Harvie Road and Big Bay Point Road crossing at Highway 400, completion of the Barrie-Simcoe Emergency Services Campus, $4.2 million in road resurfacing across Barrie and $6 million to replace a portion of the City’s fleet of vehicles. Additional projects include the Dunlop Street improvements, expansion of Mapleview Drive East, reconstruction of Dunlop, Poyntz and Berczy and rehabilitating the 10 public washrooms in City parks.
The budget also includes funding for the new Huronia/McKay trunk sanitary project. Subject to agreements with the development community, this project will unlock 381 residential units in the short-term and is a key piece, along with a number of other infrastructure projects, which will permit the development of about 200 acres of City employment land along Highway 400.
Residential property tax bill funds are allocated to City services 56 per cent), education (13 per cent as mandated by the Province) and Service Partners (31 per cent between the Barrie Police Service, Public Library, County of Simcoe, etc.). The Business Plan & Budget will be funded through property taxes, user fees and other financing sources.
Residents can visit and use the City’s Property Tax Calculator to see an estimate of their property taxes and a breakdown of how they’re used to fund services.