BY CODY STEEVES
A new regional tax increase has been approved by council and, for the most part, the money will be well spent. However, the 2014 budget does miss the mark in several major categories.
The tax increase is part of a seven-year plan to increase urban taxes annually by 1.75 per cent. Each year councillors review the increase, and can decide to raise or lower it. This year the region decided to tack on an additional 1.1 per cent, which, in total, will add about $32 to the average tax bill.
This increase seems small at first, but by the end of the plan, if every year is approved, residents will be paying 12.25 per cent more in taxes.
Going through the 2014 budget, it looks pretty good. It decreases administrative costs within the region and increases the funding of progress and development grants. It also provides $2 million in funding for benefits for the poor. However, the budget also slashes $1 million from the roads reserve, and defers $1.25 million, thus impacting road construction, repair and upgrades. We think roads should be one of the top priorities since many of them are so littered with potholes that they make driving unsafe.
Within the budget there is also upcoming price increases for daycare and GRT transportation.
Ontario, as it sits, has the highest rates for daycare in Canada at approximately $960 per month. On Feb. 1, the region will be increasing the daily rates of child care at centres that they run. This is expected to be an approximate 2.6 per cent increase. Once again, this seems rather trivial, but as we are already the highest-paying province, it will be a burden to some families.
Another increase is GRT bus fare. On July 1 it will likely see a seven per cent increase, similar to the increase in 2013. Some people may find the increase another expense that is becoming too costly for the monthly budget.
Although the region is looking to make positive changes with their budget and kept the tax increase to below two per cent, there seems to be a lot of areas where priorities need to shift. Whether it be we are paying too much or that they are not providing more funding to crucial areas, there are definitely some potholes in their plan.
The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.