Durham eyeing two per cent tax increase

Works out to $50 more a year

Durham Regional Headquarters

By Keith Gilligan

DURHAM — Regional councillors have set a tax increase target in 2017 of two per cent.

The increase works out to $50 on a house assessed at $362,000.

A report to councillors noted the increase would mean the Region will be able to maintain current service levels.

The report also noted various departments are seeking a total of 114 new positions, including 13 for EMS and three for the Durham Regional Police. The works department is requesting 30 new positions, while long-term care is seeking 32, although some of those would be making current part-time positions full-time.

One project planned is a new ambulance station in Sunderland.

Clarington Councillor Joe Neal said, “My concern is the staffing increase is being built in.”

The amount of spending is increasing by five per cent once provincial funding is included, Neal said during a council meeting on Oct. 12.

“My concern is affordability for residents,” Neal said.

He added a $120-million expansion of Regional headquarters in about five years is on the books.

“All the new positions, we’ll have to find a home for them. It will be a millstone for our taxpayers. I can’t sit back and say yes to a five per cent increase,” Neal said.

Oshawa Councillor Bob Chapman, the head of the former finance and administration committee, said, “I think a two per cent tax increase is appropriate under the circumstances. Staff does take into account affordability.”

He added the capital forecast “is a projection. It will go through staff and the committee (of the whole) before we decide.

“It makes perfect sense, a two per cent increase to maintain the programs we’ve decided are necessary,” Chapman said.

“The best example is the ambulance station in Sunderland. It won’t be any good without paramedics,” he added.

The Regional portion of the tax bill is about 50 per cent of the total, while the local level is about 30 per cent and the education portion approximately 20 per cent.