The Region of Waterloo is moving forward with a new budget for 2016 that includes a 2.96 per cent property tax increase. 

In a news release, the region said the regional council tax hike "will help provide the infrastructure and enhanced citizen services necessary to meet the growing needs of our community."

"The region is facing many financial pressures and we have worked diligently to deliver a budget that meets as many needs as possible, while continuing to keep tax rates low," said Sean Strickland, the regional budget committee chair, in the release.

"Ongoing efforts to find efficiencies and review services are paying off, and the modest tax increase and fee adjustments will help ensure financial sustainability," he added.

Some of the funds from the budget will go toward "critical services" including the implementation of a 24-hour ambulance for paramedic services, improving specialized service for those with mobility issues, adding transit options on Hanson Avenue and finally extending a Grand River Transit bus pass (U-Pass) to Conestoga College students. 

GRT bus-holiday schedule

In the 2016 budget, Waterloo Region is offering Grand River Transit U-Passes to Conestoga College students. (Gary Graves/CBC)

"Regional staff worked hard to try to balance many competing priorities in the 2016 budget," said chief administration officer Mike Murray in the statement.

"Staff have identified over $10 million in sustainable base budget reductions over the last five years, and continue to focus on providing excellent value to the community," Murray noted.

Councillors say there is also money being spent infrastructure across the region to provide better roads, bridges, transit, water supply, wastewater treatment facilities, affordable housing and government buildings. 

"The increase of 2.29 per cent for regional services and 0.67 per cent for police services will impact the average household by $54," the release said.

"Going forward, we need to invest in services and infrastructure that maintain our quality of life," said Regional Chair Ken Seiling in the statement. "This budget meets the high demand for services expected in our community."