16 Jan

Brantford’s 2017 budget approved with 3.99 per cent increase

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Residents can expect a $124 average increase to property tax bill

Residents of Brantford will have to pay up in 2017.

City of Brantford councillors passed a 2017 budget at Wednesday evening’s estimates committee meeting that has a 3.99 per cent increase.

The $130 million operating budget will leave residents with a 4.39 per cent tax increase. That’s about $124 a year for the average homeowner with a home valued at $250,000.

The budget will give a 3.33 per cent decrease for multi-residential taxes, a 7.15 per cent increase in commercial taxes and 2.65 per cent increase in industrial taxes.

The budget will go to a special city council meeting scheduled for Jan. 17 for final approval.

Mayor Chris Friel introduced the revised budget and said because he hasn’t attended many estimates committee meetings due to health reasons, he had a fresh look at the budget.
“Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees,” he said. “I know that this is not perfect, but I did try (to include projects).”

The budget does include a new fire department motor-vehicle collision fee for non-residents of Brantford, which the fire department estimates will bring in $5,000 a year.
Some council grants will no longer receive funding from the corporate contingency fund, but from the casino reserve fund.

The incentive to create affordable housing was also eliminated from this year’s budget, despite the fact that there are 1,500 people on an almost nine-year waiting list for affordable housing.
Environmental education promotions were also reduced by $30,000.

Council also decided not to put any money into the downtown revitalization reserve fund to find the money to add a reduced transit upgrade.

In previous years council has contributed $100,000 to the fund and this year had planned to put in $50,000, but the fund already has more than $500,000 in it.

Ward 1 councillor Rick Weaver, who has fought to include a plan to upgrade the transit system based on a five-year plan, extended the term to a 10-year plan to save money and ensure some changes were made.

Ward 5 Coun. David Neumann said it was disappointing that council wouldn’t fund the full transit upgrade when they spent money to have two studies, reports and consultants.

“I believe a modern city like Brantford needs an effective transit system,” he said. “We’ve acted in unbusinesslike manor, collectively, by hiring consultants to give us advice and then not listening to them.”

The new transit plan will cost a little over $87,000 and will ensure the services are extended to 12 hours on Sundays and until 7:30 p.m. on weekdays.

The budget passed in a 7-3 vote. Friel, Ward 1 Coun. Kings, Ward 1 Coun. Rick Weaver, Ward 2 councillors John Utley and John Sless, Ward 4 Coun. Cheryl Antoski and Neumann voted in favour, while Ward 3 councillors Greg Martin and Dan McCreary and Ward 4 Coun. Richard Carpenter voted against the budget.

This year, councillors were challenged with boundary expansion costs, a more than $700,000 increase to ambulance services, and a loss of $1 million from the casino’s property taxes due to reassessment. Some councillors are calling for an overhaul of how the budget is built.

“It’s a shame we are delivering this hit to the taxpayer,” McCreary said. “I’d like to see us take a different tack next year to find a way to be an affordable community.”

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