Niagara Regional Council approved its 2021 budget Thursday that allocates $17.8 million to mitigate COVID-19 and $1.5 million toward the new West Niagara hospital in Grimsby, but hikes taxes by 1.8 per cent.
The council also hiked rate water and wastewater services combined by 2 per cent and 4.5 percent for waste management.
The Niagara Region budget is made up of three components: the levy operating budget, rate operating budgets, and the capital budget.
The 2021 operating budget contains an overall property tax increase of 1.8 percent to the taxpayer. For the average property assessed at $278,764, the Regional portion of the tax bill will increase by $29, totalling $1,640 in 2021.
In a new release it said, “As part of 2021 budget deliberations, the Region undertook a comprehensive public engagement process. The budget engagement exercise reaffirmed our residents’ desire to see the Region continue to support population and economic growth initiatives and ensure Niagara’s most vulnerable citizens are cared for.”
Here are some of the council’s 2021 budget highlights:
- COVID-19 costs for 2021 estimated at $17.8 million, fully funded with Safe Restart and other provincial funding to include a Pandemic Response Team for Niagara Public Health to use on mitigation of future risk to public health.
- West Lincoln Hospital Redevelopment Contribution – $1.5 million annual contribution to reserve (for a $12.6 million commitment) toward expansion of health services in west Niagara.
- EMS system upgrades of $1.3 million.
- An additional $2 million or 0.5 per cent of the 2021 tax increase is dedicated to enhancing funding for infrastructure, such as roads reconstruction and bridge replacement.
- Use of $4.3 million in reserves to mitigate the impacts of operating budget pressures on the taxpayers.
The operating budget for 2021 contains a tax levy of $405.3 million, which funds the daily business of Niagara Region, its boards and agencies.
The operating budget also supports a $500.3 million approved capital program, the news release said. The Region has allocated funding toward the construction of the South Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility, which will open up the area to population growth and new economic opportunities.
In December, Niagara Regional Council approved rate budget increases for 2021 of 2.0 percent for water and wastewater services combined and 4.5 percent for waste management.
The approved water and wastewater budgets are effective as of Jan. 1, 2021, and billed to the local area municipalities based on water and wastewater usage following the Council approved methodology. As the wholesaler of water and wastewater services in Niagara, the Region will bill the local municipalities, who in-turn incorporate the new rates into resident water bills.
In 2020, Niagara Region commenced new residential waste collection contracts. The municipality also transitioned to an every-other-week curbside collection that improves waste diversion targets.
Costs for waste services are charged to municipalities based on special tax rates applied to the assessed value of households. Average households in Niagara can expect to pay up to an additional $6.88 more for the year for waste services in 2021.