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Simcoe County councillors approve $432M budget

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In Candidates / Election 2014
Jan 28th, 2015
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By Andrew Philips Barrie Examiner

Simcoe County ratepayers will see a slight increase in their tax bills this year to help pay for major capital expenses and additional hiring in key departments like paramedic services.

During their bi-monthly meeting Tuesday in Midhurst, county councillors approved a $432-million budget for 2015, which includes funding for more than 40 capital projects to improve county roads, intersections and bridges along with new money for public housing and improved facilities in other departments.

The budget means residents will see the county portion of their tax bills rise 1.06%, a figure that works out to about $3.23 per $100,000 of property assessment.

“I think 1% is good,” county Warden Gerry Marshall said after the meeting.

Marshall said ongoing increases to operating costs and essential new projects meant staff and councillors had to work hard to arrive at a figure that doesn’t create too much sting on ratepayers’ wallets.

“We’re always aware of taxation and look at how we can continue to deliver essential services,” he said, pointing out the budget ensures the county remains on the path of long-term fiscal stability while allowing for the expansion of health and social programs.

Of the $432 million in total expenditures, Ontario Works receives $84 million, with transportation and engineering getting $73.2 million, long-term care and seniors’ services receiving $50.2 million followed by solid-waste management and paramedic services receiving $47.3 million and $45 million, respectively.

Social housing, which includes funds for the redevelopment of Brooks Street in Barrie to create an additional 54 units of affordable housing, will receive $43.7 million.

Other departments included in the operating capital budget are general municipal ($22.6 million) and children and community services ($34.3 million), along with other funding expenses ($32.7 million).

Trevor Wilcox, the county’s general manager of the corporate performance division, said besides creating 16 new paramedic positions and the extra shifts they will cover to address higher call volumes, the county is focusing on improving paramedic stations with new offerings being developed and constructed in Alliston and Beeton along with an expected land purchase for a new Orillia station later this year.

“We have 17 bases around the county,” Wilcox said, noting the county’s paramedic team will soon add one new dedicated 24-hour vehicle serving Barrie, another 12-hour vehicle north of the city and another 12-hour ambulance serving parts south.

The county will also dole out funds for community partnership projects, including $3 million for the Simcoe County Hospital Alliance, $4 million for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and $1.5 million for post-secondary capital support.

Wilcox also pointed out the county’s strong financial performance and ongoing diligence led Standard and Poor’s rating services to raise the county’s rating from AA- to AA last year.

As well, Marshall said, the new council will create its own strategic plan in the coming months to guide what it would like to accomplish over the next four years.

“A strategic plan will make (establishing) future budgets easier,” he said.

$85K ITEM STAYS IN BUDGET

Prior to approving a multimillion-dollar budget Tuesday, a smaller item received some last-minute attention from Simcoe County councillors.

After some debate, councillors voted to keep a budget item to spend about $85,000 to hire economic development officer (EDO) personnel over the coming year.

“I want to see us keep this EDO position,” said Ramara Township Mayor Basil Clarke. “I certainly want this position in the budget. A lot of us, during the (fall election), campaigned for economic development.”

His Ramara colleague, Deputy Mayor John O’Donnell, agreed, noting the cost amounts to 19 cents per tax bill and should be left in.

Trevor Wilcox, the county’s general manager of the corporate performance division, said the funding could also be used to create two part-time positions.

“The $85,000 was added during the last term of council,” he said. “The position is designed to foster economic development through 2015.”

COUNCILLORS NAMED TO ESCARPMENT COMMISSION

County councillors approved a plan to nominate three area representatives to the Niagara Escarpment Commission.

Under a motion approved Tuesday that relates to the Niagara Escarpment Planning and Development Act, Clearview Township councillors Shawn Davidson, Doug Measures and Kevin Elwood will have their names submitted to be considered for appointment to the commission.

Under the Niagara plan, the county is required to name three individuals whose jurisdiction includes a part of the Niagara Escarpment Planning Area.

County budgets for EDO

By Andrew Philips Barrie Examiner

Prior to approving a multi-million-dollar budget Tuesday, it was a smaller item that received some last minute attention from Simcoe County councillors.

After some debate, councillors voted to keep a budget item to spend about $85,000 to hire economic development officer (EDO) personnel over the coming year.

“I want to see us keep this EDO position,” said Ramara Township Mayor Basil Clarke. “I certainly want this position in the budget. A lot of us during the (fall election) campaigned for economic development.”

His Ramara Township colleague Deputy Mayor John O’Donnell agreed, noting the cost really only amounts to 19 cents per tax bill and should be left in.

Trevor Wilcox, the county’s general manager (corporate performance division), said the funding could also be used to create two part-time positions.

“The $85,000 was added during the last term of council,” Wilcox said. “The position is designed to foster economic development through 2015.”

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