Pickering taxpayers looking at 5.42 per cent hike as new rules get 2024 budget to the finish line

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Published February 12, 2024 at 8:06 pm

Pickering taxpayers are looking at a 5.42 per cent increase to their tax bills in the spring, with the city portion making up less than a third of that total.

Unlike previous years, however, there will be no fight to the finish with multiple amendments from local councillors as Pickering Mayor Kevin Ashe has utilized Strong Mayor Powers to get the document to the finish line.

While the 2024 City budget has not officially declared a done deal, a scheduled budget meeting for Feb. 20 has been cancelled as there were no amendments suggested by his Council colleagues.

Under the new Strong Mayor Power rules, councillors can’t “just ask” for an amendment to the Mayor’s budget, said Regional Councillor Maurice Brenner. “You have to do the cost recovery and do it line by line to find the money.”

Brenner has been public in his opposition to the new system but acknowledges that the outcome this year is good, with a minimal tax increase.

The process, however, is another story.

“Call me old fashioned but I like it the other way. It’s easier to sit down at a table to brainstorm with councillors and with the public,” he said. “Now there’s no vote.”

“It’s the Mayor’s budget.”

Brenner said he raised a few flags on a few community project grants but was ultimately comfortable with what Ashe and his senior staff have presented. “I have accepted it. It is what it is.”

The $87.43 million budget – which was essentially approved Friday with the announcement that there were no amendments and no need for the Feb. 20 meeting –  is up 3.99 per cent from last year. Coupled with the Durham Region budget hike of 7.5 per cent and the 13.18 per cent increase from the two school bords, the total tax levy increase will amount to 5.42 per cent.

Pickering’s share of the overall hike is just 1.25 per cent.

A few of the budget highlights include:

  • the operationalization the Corporate Strategic Plan
  • an increase to the Senior’s Property Tax Grant from $535 to $560
  • enhanced community events including an Easter Parade
  • social funding for St. Paul’s on the Hill Community Food Bank,
    Dedicated Advocacy & Resource Services (OARS), Jerry
    Coughlan Health & Wellness Centre and an expanded community
    grant program
  • the Petticoat Creek Conservation Park visioning
    exercise and investigative studies
  • four new firefighters
  • expanded support for the Community Safety
    & Wellbeing Advisory Committee and Anti-Black Racism Task
    Force
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