After concluding a process that started three months ago, Waterloo Regional Council on Wednesday established its budget for 2014. Here are some of the key things you should know about how it will affect you and the services you receive.
1. There will be a property tax increase of 1.86 per cent
Regional councillors voted in favour of a 1.86 per cent tax increase, with 1.05 percentage points going towards regional services, and 0.81 points going to police services. The overall impact to the average household will be $32.38. The net levy comes to $292.3 million. Those funds will go to areas such as police, childcare subsidies, senior services, bus service in Cambridge, Ontario Works discretionary benefits and ambulance service.
"I think we've hit a good balance," regional budget chair Tom Galloway told CBC News. "I'm generally pleased that we were able to come under 2 per cent when we were first looking at something shy of 3 per cent."
Regional Councillor and North Dumfries Mayor Rob Deutschmann did try to ask council to consider a 2 per cent increase, arguing that an additional $200,000 go to the police services board budget.
"Chief Matt Torigian has said at council that the police budget is just treading water," said Deutschmann. "We need to advance our police services moving forward and not just tread water as we grow in our community."
2. Council approved $1 million for discretionary benefits
This amount is divided into two parts. Council approved for $500,000 to be placed as permanent funding in the base budget for discretionary benefits, and another $500,000 to be put in as one-time funding. This will go toward Ontario Works Discretionary Benefits (OWDB) programs such as assistance in paying for energy utilities and eviction prevention.
3. GRT routes will be restructured, GO shuttle eliminated
Certain Grand River Transit routes will be restructured or eliminated in order to increase efficiency for riders. This is expected to produce $831,000 in savings. Council also decided to eliminate GO shuttle between GRT connections, which is estimated to save $29,000. Staff added that the shuttle can be reintroduced if the level of GO train service and ridership increases in the future.
4. $1.25 million deferred from road rehabilitation reserve, another $1 million cut
Regional Council had previously approved for an annual increase in the road rehabilitation budget of 0.3 per cent of the previous year's levy. However, for 2014 council decided to defer $1.25 million from the fund, and cut another $1 million altogether. Regional staff say such cuts will result in an increase in the infrastructure deficit, and several significant reconstruction projects will have to be removed from a 10-year funding program or delayed.
5. Rural waste transfer stations closed, except in Woolwich Township
Twenty years ago, four rural waste transfer stations were established to help residents in the townships who had limited or no curbside waste pickup service get rid of their garbage. However, regional staff found that in 2009, many township residents began receiving expanded waste disposal service similar to city residents. Regional council voted to close the transfer stations, but leave the one in Woolwich Township open on Thursdays and Saturdays. The move is expected to save the region $308,250.