News Local

Simcoe County looking at $469-million budget for 2017

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

Simcoe County's Administration Building in Midhurst, north of Barrie. (Examiner Files)

Simcoe County's Administration Building in Midhurst, north of Barrie. (Examiner Files)

Simcoe County is upping the ante in its 2017 budget.

The county is betting residents will understand its need for a 2% increase to maintain existing services and beef up a few that require more support.

“Our residents expect a high level of service and it is our job to ensure they receive the services and programs they need as efficiently as possible,” Warden Gerry Marshall said.

Marshall pointed out the province’s Municipal Price Index forecasts a 2.4% increase, so coming in under that figure was important, he said.

“This budget is not only fiscally responsible, it builds upon a solid foundation of investment in social, community and health services, while maintaining an active role in economic development.

With a budget of $469 million passed by Simcoe County council Tuesday – and $318 coming from the federal and provincial coffers – the 16 municipalities that make up Simcoe County must come up with $151 million for services in 2017.

Services not paid for by the individual municipalities include transportation and engineering, solid waste, paramedic services, long-term care for seniors, Simcoe County supported housing, planning, development and tourism, Ontario Works, children and community services and more.

The expected increase to the budget of approximately 2% or $3 million, will cost homeowners an additional $5.98 per $100,000 house assessment, or to a total of $304.93 per $100,000 assessment.*

In addition, homeowners must pay their own municipalities’ taxes (for water, waste water services, road clearings and recreation), as well as school board fees.

The county’s 2017 budget adds additional spending in health and emergency services, social and community services, as well as the implementation of its 10-year housing and homelessness strategy.

“We’re adding six full-time equivalent positions to the paramedic services,” said the county’s general manager Trevor Wilcox.

By adding two shifts to the mix, Wilcox said response times to Orillia and in the Midland/Penetanguishene areas would be improved.

“It helps the whole county. It helps the entire system. When we beef up one side, they cover each other, so it helps the whole operation when we add staff,” he said.

Another new project includes the addition of 117 affordable housing units in Collingwood, he said.

“It’s the expansion of the rent-geared-to-income homes. We’re tearing down townhouses and building two apartment buildings with family units as well,” Wilcox said.

Additional money will be offered to homeowners looking to build second-suite apartments.

The county is spending $54 million on long-term care for seniors, including affordable housing in 54 new geared-to-income units that opened in Barrie last April.

The Ontario Works program has a budget of $76 million and the county plans to spend another $44 million on children and community services.

Although the county is using $20.6 million of development charges, and $8 million of provincial gas tax revenue, it’s also setting aside $43 million for road construction.

Approximately $16 million will be used for County Road 90 between Barrie and Angus, $5.6 million for County Road 17, $4 million for County Road 15 and another $4.9 for Vigo Bridge reconstruction and repairs.

For more information, visit.www.simcoe.ca.

CBrowne@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/cherylbrowne1