Posted on: February 23rd, 2023. By: Joseph Quigley, newmarkettoday.ca, Original Article.
York Region has passed its 2023 budget with a 3.9 per cent tax increase and a late addition of $12.77 million boost to social services.
The $3.9-billion budget added funding late in the process to better address issues such as homelessness and housing. Otherwise, the budget features $894 million in capital expenditures this year, an increase for police services and a one per cent tax levy dedicated to helping to pay the region’s $1.12 billion portion of the Yonge North subway extension.
For Newmarket residents, that 3.9 per cent increase represents an $88 property tax rise on the average home, with $22 dedicated to the subway levy.
“We know staff worked till quite late last night getting this budget out,” Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson said to start the meeting today. “It’s a great budget going forward.”
Emmerson floated adding a one per cent tax rate increase last week, which would have put the tax rate at 4.9 per cent, to raise approximately $13 million to boost social services.
But staff worked to instead use a surplus realized through provincial pandemic recovery funding given late in 2022. That funding will be drawn from a reserve fund dedicated to addressing the pandemic and recovery, with council unanimously passing a motion to include that this year. The same dollars for social services will also be included in future budget outlooks until 2026.
In total, $12.77 million will be raised through the approved measure annually. Approximately $4.1 million will go to homelessness and $5.5 million will go toward enhancing the community housing system. Another $3.17 million will be allocated to the community investment fund, which supports non-profits, to address gaps in areas like mental health and human trafficking support.
Newmarket Mayor John Taylor expressed excitement about the increase.
“We all know this is an area we need to address more significantly from a funding perspective,” Taylor said, adding that he estimates homelessness encampments tripled in Newmarket over the past year. “This is an exciting step forward, but it is a small step forward.”
He added council must have further discussions in the years ahead about ensuring these dollars are permanently built into the budget.
Multiple advocates made formal delegations to council, asking them to approve additional funding for social services. The presentations spoke in favour of a tax increase to do so, but the alternative funding solution was not publicized in advance.
Regardless, organizations including Blue Door, the Affordable Housing Coalition of York Region and Community Legal Clinic of York Region all spoke in favour of the idea of more lasting funding to social services.
360kids CEO Clovis Grant said more support is needed to help youth homelessness.
“The need is there,” Grant said. “We need to focus on prevention because it saves lives, saves money and reduces pressures on our systems.”
Vaughan Regional Councillor Gino Rosati thanked all the organizations that presented.
“It’s refreshing to see there’s a lot of people out there that care and they want to do the right thing,” Rosati said, adding that the province also needs to step up. “I hope our effort will be a signal and motivate others to do likewise.”
The 3.9 per cent tax increase is only for the region’s portion of property tax bills. Newmarket is still working through its own budget, with a possible 7.67 per cent increase for its portion of the property tax on the table.